Charles Trevor, managing director of wood. for good, explains how the campaign is encouraging young people to take an interest in timber

The timber industry is – not before time – waking up to the vital role of education in ensuring viable, sustained future growth. There is little point in successfully marketing timber and timber products if an entire generation of school and university students have no desire to work in the sector.

It is up to all of us to try to change that. We should use whatever we have at our disposal to promote timber as a material for the future and the industry as an attractive career option.

At wood. for good we have launched two design competitions that we hope will grab their imagination. The first is aimed at harnessing the innate interest that schoolchildren have in building and problem solving.

Working with NCEInsite – an offshoot of New Civil Engineer magazine targeted at 15 year olds – we are asking children to design a timber bridge that encompasses the ideals of functionality, environmental sustainability and aesthetic beauty.

If they do go on to study engineering at university, some of these children may be tempted by a course that has a higher proportion of its syllabus devoted to timber – such as the new degree in civil and timber engineering at Napier University. With 15% of the course devoted to timber, students should come out better informed than on the average degree course – where timber accounts for just 1% of the content.

Which suggests that we should be doing more lobbying of universities to change the emphasis in their traditional civil and structural degree courses.

We have also launched a competition for design students – be they students of architecture, engineering or interior design. In conjunction with the Royal Institute of British Architects, we are challenging young designers to develop proposals for a brownfield development that can include leisure, retail, commercial or residential facilities and involves both new buildings and the refurbishment of existing structures.

Competitions are not everything, but they do excite and enthuse young people, and at least plant the seed of interest in timber and its capabilities. Coupled with a sustained campaign of education, they can reach people at a vital age when career choices are being made.