I’m delighted to be a judge at the upcoming TTJ Career Development Awards and believe initiatives like this really help the sector recognise its achievements in skills and careers progression.

I can’t wait to see the Awards entries. But, at the same time, it also reminds me of just how much our sector needs to keep moving forward on training and skills development and in developing new standards and qualifications to ensure we’re ahead of the game. Proskills UK Group has now been working with the wood and timber industries for over eight years to tackle skills gaps and develop new career routes. We believe that skills development starts at the base for employers, so it’s vital that their industry has a say in what is needed for their own sector and works closely with qualifications and training providers.

Recently we’ve stepped up collaboration with the industry further to ensure the right skills are making it to the right employers.

The Proskills wood employer board has focused closely on developing new standards, qualifications and apprenticeships needed by the sector. It includes representatives from companies across the spectrum, small and large, as well as trade associations.

Among the latter there is of course now the Confederation of Timber Industries (CTI). It has expressed a keen interest in training and we’re also seeking to work closely with it to develop more skills solutions.

Proskills’ work with timber employers and trade associations has also led to the development of a whole suite of new qualifications and apprenticeships. These are already in use by some employers, and the benefits are clearly being seen with demonstrable improvement in staff capabilities and output.

There isn’t room here to list all of them, but they comprise NVQ Level 2 and 3 and OAL qualifications and the topics they cover include timber and panel products and their uses, tooling technology, saw doctoring, engineered wood, merchant supplies, sawmilling, wood preserving, wood machining, wood products manufacturing, solid surfaces, and furniture and wood processing.

In addition to these for the first time there are now also Level 2 & 3 wood fuel qualifications available through the new awarding organisation, Occupational Awards Ltd, a wholly-owned Proskills UK Group subsidiary.

The latter also has a further suite of newly written, employer-led qualifications for the sector: www.oawards.co.uk

We are also working with employers to develop new standards (NOS) and qualifications in health and safety. This is seen as critical due to high accident and accidental death rates in the industry, and also the skills gap opened by new EU and UK regulation and the need for employers to ensure they have relevant precautions in place.

It’s amazing how far we’ve come in eight years and we’re proud of our achievements with the industry in making these new qualifications happen. But we now must ensure that the industry uses these new and precious tools to help improve standards at their business and across the industry to boost productivity and realise the potential of employees.

For more: lisa.williamson@proskills.co.uk / www.proskills.co.uk