Another New Year, another grey hair – or two. And that’s not just a personal concern, in recent years it seems to have been a growing anxiety for UK timber plc too.

It’s been a frequent refrain in the sector that its workforce, and notably its management, is aging; it’s not attracting enough new talent and could face a succession time bomb, with too few qualified candidates around to replace retiring senior personnel.

The perceived problem has been put down to various factors, including individual companies not being proactive enough in recruiting and a general fall-off in training provision creating the impression the sector wasn’t committed to developing skills or offering defined career progression.

But we’ve increasingly wondered if this ‘aging industry’ perception wasn’t itself a bit past it. Each year the TTJ Career Development Award attracts qualified and motivated young entrants. Individual firms also proudly tell us about rising training investment, with some bigger players now running their own ‘timber academies’.

General industry training is not on its last legs either, with the Institute of Wood Science now more secure as part of the IOM3 organisation and a wider range of learning options and materials than ever available from sources including TRADA and the Centre for Timber Engineering.

So to find out if the industry really needs to worry whether it has a sufficiently strong new generation ready to pick up the reins, we conducted a straw poll of the current crop of up and coming younger personnel. The result is our 40 under 40 feature – and cause for considerable optimism. The article includes people from across the sector. They’ve undertaken the gamut of training, they’re committed and optimistic about their future careers. Take this together with the work of the Norton House Group of timber trade bodies and the Proskills Sector Skills Council to set up a new national training and qualifications framework (and more news on this is due soon) and it looks like this industry’s future is in safe and capable hands.