The initiative, unveiled at the headquarters of the Wadkin Group at Barton last on March 29, aims both to establish an integrated system of officially recognised qualifications for the sector, “from apprenticeships to higher degrees”, and to help companies implement training and apprentice programmes.

At the launch event, the UKW officially started up its Learning Company scheme. Wood businesses can sign up to this by demonstrating that they “meet or exceed” UKW training benchmarks. They will then be approved to offer apprenticeships and included on a database for use by people looking for employment.

“Each business must demonstrate that it has the resource for workplace learning, using qualified mentors, trainers and assessors,” said the UKW’s Mike Marchant.

Suppliers of learning material, courses and services will also be accredited to the scheme and then listed on a national register for use by employers and learners. Wadkin is the first to have its e-learning materials accredited.

The UKW is also developing National Occupational Standards for the wood sector. All courses will be accredited under the National Qualification Framework and businesses that use them will be able to set up government-backed apprenticeship schemes. A commercial training programme for timber is also being established with affiliation to the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply.

The UKW is backed by the Sector Skills Development Agency and its training initiative is supported by 20 industry bodies.

“Working together with support from government, our industry bodies have organised a strategy for the sector to be equipped with qualified staff by the end of 2010,” said UKW chairman Peter Harland.