Having just become director of the Institute of Wood Science (IWSc) I see a great need for it to change to become more relevant to the modern industry we work in. I also see a need for the industry to change to embrace timber education as part of the work environment. Our major client is construction and it is up-skilling at all levels in line with government demands to plug the skills gap and increase international competitiveness.

Developing the skills of our existing workforce is hugely important given that they will still comprise more than 70% of the people working in the industry in 2020. The education and skills system has until now been focused on young people, but the development of individuals is important across the board, from highest positions of leadership, to supervisory, technical and craft levels.

The IWSc’s new Woodfocus magazine is inserted in this TTJ and I hope it will be seen as a more relevant news source than before. Its aim is to raise the profile of the Institute and features include a list of people who have completed the IWSc Foundation Course (equivalent to an N/SVQ Level 2) and the Certificate Course (equivalent to an N/SVQ Level 3) in the first part of 2007. It also lists companies that have sponsored candidates.

Company training support for personnel has several beneficial effects. Firstly it demonstrates commitment to staff development and providing a career path. By contrast, companies that don’t train tend to have poorly motivated staff and low personnel retention. Firms that monitor customer views on service have also found that having a better motivated workforce directly benefits the bottom line. Customers feel better disposed towards more knowledgeable staff and are more likely to give them repeat business. Staff who take training courses, are better equipped to answer technical queries. And the latter are increasing, particularly with regard to the growing volume of innovative engineered wood products entering the market.

So, for the future, the Institute aims to be part of your forward thinking business for both individuals and companies alike, by updating the relevant skills and product knowledge of the personnel involved.

Duncan King is director of the Institute of Wood Science and the Insitute of Carpenters.