This month Wood Campus is launching an online Level 3 Award in Timber Merchanting.

The award – a fully accredited Level 3 Award in Timber Merchanting, represents two days’ classroom learning and provides significant Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) towards the Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Merchant Supplies.

Before the advent of this award, the only truly accredited awards for people in the timber merchant industry were from colleges.

Now they can register and study online to achieve a Level 3 Award and gain recognition through Occupational Awards – Proskills’ equivalent of City and Guilds.

The idea for the Award initially came from merchant members looking for a simple training tool that could be part of a recognised career path and offer a valuable qualification. Its development is recognition that the timber industry understands the importance of improving skills in the sector, particularly as builders depend on their timber merchant to help them with the right product and good advice.

Training has never been a more topical issue for the industry, facing the challenge of a government urgently seeking ways to increase housebuilding, a workforce where many of the most skilled are reaching retirement, and a shortage of apprenticeships. This Award will form part of a wider effort across the industry.

The Award in Timber Merchanting is an accredited qualification aimed at new and recent starters in the industry, but many more experienced staff may find it equally valuable.

"We would absolutely support this programme," said Erica Leyshon, head of talent, Grafton Merchanting GB.

"We have over 5,000 people across the UK and are long time users of online training. We would be strong supporters of the Award in Timber Merchanting."

"On-line learning is the most accessible training format for our nationally spread business and I see this as another opportunity for our teams to progress and build on their knowledge," said Kevin Patterson, director of human resources, MKM Building Supplies Ltd.

"This is exactly the kind of project the TTF wants to see as part of our efforts to improve knowledge and skills in the industry," said Dave Hopkins, managing director, the Timber Trade Federation.

Accredited by Occupational Awards Ltd, a subsidiary of Proskills, and delivered by Cortexa, the UK Construction sector’s leading e-learning provider, the course has been in development throughout 2015 with the support of the Wood Campus partners: Swedish Wood; the British Woodworking Federation; the Timber Decking and Cladding Association; the Timber Trade Federation; Wood for Good; the Wood Protection Association; and the Wood Window Alliance, as well as the Wood Technology Society, a division of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining.

The Award has an Introduction lasting 10 minutes and features an animated house to identify the different timber building products, their names and what they are used for.

Section 1, Wood the Sustainable Building Material is two hours’ long and uses a combination of videos and animations to explain about the environmental benefits of timber, its sustainability, its role in low carbon construction, the different certification schemes and CE marking. It also covers the differences between hardwoods and softwoods, cell structure and knots, as well as the main regions our timber is imported from and harvesting techniques. Section 2, Understanding Timber Products, covers the conversion of timber, sawing methods, trade sizes and stock lengths, commercial grading, moisture in timber, wood preservation, strength grading and Use Classes.

Section 3, Products and Sizing covers carcassing and joinery timber, mouldings and profiles, sheet materials, fixings and predictability in fire.

Section 4, Working in the Merchant Environment, covers a wide range of topics from calculating sizes and stock maintenance to improving margins and successful selling.

The Final Assessment takes an hour, and successful completion leads to the Award (Qualification Accreditation Number 601/8140/0).

It will be marketed to all existing Wood Campus users through the BMF and through Wood Campus and Cortexa partners, such as the TTF, BWF, TDCA and Wood for Good.

There will be an extensive digital advertising campaign using the video presentation of the Award as fulfilment and a taster. A prospectus for the Award is available either as a printed copy or pdf.

For anyone currently working for a timber merchant, or in the wider timber industry, this is a natural way to make sure you know the basics and to make the most of your career, all for £245. Enrolment is via Wood Campus, BMF Campus or your timber merchant portal (see uk/award for more details).