Let me start with an anecdote.

I was called to a national builder and timber merchant’s branch to inspect some wood under claim.

Helping me inspect was the timber office sales guy. After a while, he asked me "what wood is this?" Spruce, I answered. "No, what wood is this?" Whitewood, I answered. Again, "but what wood is this?" I answered coniferous – like Christmas trees. Ah, he then got it!

Today a formal education in wood is limited to a lucky few, whereas when I started it seemed that every local college offered classes in wood education – supported by many companies with excellent training schemes. Then the industry training boards of that time were dismantled, and today we are left with very little, apart from a few company training/product awareness days, often only for customers.

There are lights on the horizon: independent consultant Geoff Rhodes is motivating MSc students at Edinburgh Napier University; the Wood Technology Society (a division of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining) has relaunched its foundation course, now known as the Timber and Panel Products Course (covering wood science and other topics); and in the pipeline the Society is updating its advanced courses. Furthermore, Bangor University is at the forefront of academic research.

Education is vital at all levels of business. The company financial director is at least an ACA (Associate of the Institute of Chartered Accountants), so why cannot the timber and sales staff be formally qualified in wood education, with initials after their name? And then comes CPD!

The Wood Technology Society is able to provide wood education to many levels, but we need help to carry this through, either by enrolling on a course, becoming an individual member, or by corporate support.

By the way, back to my anecdote, the wood inspected was all on grade. It turned out that the branch manager had little knowledge about timber grades! Education, education, education!