“Please do something to show the industry does care about its future and give us the resources to grow the market for timber”.

That was the appeal of Forest Education Initiative (FEI) chairman Terence Mallinson addressing the North East Coast Timber Trade Association annual dinner.

Of course the FEI has already proved a success, raising awareness of the value of the forestry and timber sector among youngsters in schools and colleges around the UK. To date it has set up 45 ‘clusters’ – collaborative groups of businesses, environmental trusts and other organisations which arrange field trips, factory visits and classroom presentations.

But now, said Mr Mallinson, the FEI wants to take its work to a new level and raise £2.6m to expand the ‘cluster’ network and launch other publicity and education initiatives. The ultimate aim of its new “Campaign for Growth” is to bring about “a complete change in outlook” about wood among young people.

It’s a bold plan, but there’s no reason why it can’t be achieved. The sum of £2.6m may sound a lot, but in the general scheme of youth marketing it’s not so much – Coca Cola last year spent £103m just to be the Harry Potter films’ drinks brand!

The FEI investment could also have an impact over and above its actual size because it dovetails so neatly with other education and training initiatives in the industry. In January we reported on the new forestry training set-up at Barony College and the eagerly awaited opening of the Centre for Timber Engineering. Last year we also covered the launch of the IWSc‘s Foundation Course entry training programme and the Woodworking Machinery Suppliers Association‘s “Cutting Edge” grant scheme for colleges running wood working courses. Now the TTF is undertaking a survey of the industry’s wider training needs and we’re doing our bit too by introducing a Timber Trainee category in the annual TTJ Awards.

When he took over the TTF presidency, Geoff Rhodes said a key aim of his term of office would be to encourage an inflow of new blood into the timber sector. Hopefully the combination of the FEI’s efforts to interest young people in the industry and the latest training initiatives will help achieve that goal.