Driving Up Standards, Attracting Talent

22 April 2019

The year ahead looks challenging, but the BWF is not about to relax its efforts supporting the woodworking sector to further improve performance and recruit and hone the skills of its next generation of employees, says chief executive Helen Hewitt

We’re already three months into 2019 and it’s shaping up to be another very busy year.

As an organisation representing such an important sector within UK industry, it’s important that we stay focused on driving up best practice standards and championing quality and professionalism.

This year, our emphasis is on celebrating our membership and by supporting their businesses, helping them grow and develop. One of our key focuses has to be on promoting best practice and quality. This is especially true in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy and the ongoing reviews into construction materials and products, such as fire doors.

Within the BWF we have several well-established and recognised industry schemes, including the Fire Door Alliance (FDA). Through the FDA, we work to improve the quality, safety and traceability of fi re doors. We often see non-certified fi re doors that are not fi t for purpose, which is a cause for real concern.

It is therefore extremely pleasing to hear that a number of members have already reported successful timber door tests as part of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s (MHCLG) investigation into the burn time of fi re doors.

While the MHCLG is yet to publish its findings on timber doors, our results show clear evidence of third-party certified timber doors surpassing the 30 minute burn-time requirement by an average of 16 minutes, and in some cases up to a 24 minute over-run.

This is in contrast to glass foam-filled doors testing, which MHCLG has already reported on.

It is vital that we continue the good work of our industry schemes, which also include the Wood Window Alliance and Stair Scheme to promote best practice, innovation and ongoing training and development.

Across all of our schemes this year, we’ll be working closely with architects and specifiers to explain the benefits of certification, the high standards our members meet and, importantly, the health and well-being benefits of wood, so that they can make informed specifications.

Another key issue that I am passionate about, and that will continue to be a focus through the year, is attracting and developing the next generation of talent, to provide the workforce and skills that the timber sector, and wider construction industry, vitally needs.

Our sector today fuses traditional skills in carpentry and joinery with innovative, technology-enabled manufacturing capability. It is crucial therefore that we also ensure our training and apprenticeship schemes are fit for purpose.

As a result, we’re reviewing a number of apprenticeship standards in carpentry and joinery and wood product manufacture, to ensure we continue to meet the demand of members, while also attracting new people.

In addition to this, we’re also continuing to support the development of skills in key areas, demonstrated through the ongoing success of the Fire Door Installation Training course.

As always, there’s much to do to get the message out about our highly skilled and committed profession and to promote the benefits of working with and specifying timber products. But it’s a mission we are passionate about fulfilling.

Helen Hewitt