Working with further education (FE) colleges and other educational bodies nationwide and linking them more closely with the timber industry, the Institute of Carpenters’ (IOC) mission is to help create a new framework that meets the developing training needs of a fast-changing industry facing a mounting skills shortage.

We now have nearly 40 FE colleges in IOC College Membership across England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland and our ambition is that every FE college in the UK offering carpentry, joinery, or woodworking skills training joins us too.

The IOCs relationship with each FE college is important and appointed college liaison officers (CLO) are responsible for inviting all their year one, two and three student woodworking skills learners to join the free IOC student membership scheme. Over 1,800 student learners have joined this programme already and it continues to gain momentum.

The IOC’s ‘City Hub’ strategy for creating new links and networks with educational establishments and industry is also gathering pace. Over the last three years we have hosted many successful City Hub meetings at member colleges across the UK and the initiative is giving craft skills students and tutors invaluable access to the expertise and knowledge of IOC members and industry specialists.

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has regularly highlighted the acute shortage of woodworking specialists in the UK, saying currently up to 25,000 are needed over five years just to stand still. Also, to help meet this challenge, I was invited to join the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) People & Skills network. This is a wide and very experienced group, but others involved are not necessarily all so well versed about the timber trade and its craft and wider training needs, so it’s been really useful to be a part of this work.

To further strengthen links with FE colleges and their students, the IOC also introduced a Third Year Student of the Year Award three years ago. The CITB SkillBuild national competition has been revitalised recently too and, in the last two years, the IOC has sponsored and presented prizes to winners of the carpentry, joinery and cabinet-making ‘Stretch Tests’, a further demonstration of our outreach to the training sector.

The IOC has additionally invested considerably in uprating and improving the IOC website and its social media feeds, and these will continue to develop (https://

Finally, a signifi cant new initiative we are working on for 2023-24 is the IOC Mentoring Champions Scheme. The aim is to establish a mentoring programme through our experienced members, which encourages and supports student learners and apprentices in their training and into their career and creates a positive perception among school-leavers and other groups about pursuing careers within the construction industry.

Following a successful pilot, the programmes, we hope, can be expanded wider across the UK, with the objective of working toward national coverage. Watch this space!