A decade of development

18 May 2013

Opening the call for entries, Camilla Hair of SCA Timber Supply reviews factors influencing the present and future of the TTJ Career Development Awards

This call for entries marks SCA Timber Supply's 10th year of sponsoring the Career Development Awards. Over the years winners have come from across the spectrum of the wood industry: from timber merchants, joinery firms, builders merchants, window and mouldings manufacturers and timber processors. All of them are united in the belief that skills development amongst their staff contributes positively to their company bottom line.

It was initially an award for trainees new to the timber industry but TTJ and SCA subsequently decided to acknowledge the continuing professional development undertaken voluntarily as part of day-to-day business by more senior staff. The two categories of Career Development Award - for under 25-year-olds and for over 25s - have had their own trophies since 2007.

In many other sectors, architecture for example, continuing professional development (CPD) is formalised, with scheme participants gaining points for specific kinds of activities. A total number of points must be achieved each year for accredited status to be retained. In the timber sector, the British Woodworking Federation's CPD programme runs on the same principles, and is currently in its first year of operation.

"We have 11 companies signed up to the scheme and this number is growing day-by-day," said BWF marketing and training manager Dave Campbell. "CPD works for small and medium-sized local businesses as well as large national joinery manufacturers, and it doesn't matter where you are on the career ladder: you can always benefit from additional training, development and reviewing your skills. CPD is essential to competing effectively in today's market."

RIBA-accredited Wood Campus

Wood Campus, the wood industry's online training academy, hosts CPD modules on aspects of wood use and technology accredited to the Royal Institute of British Architects' (RIBA) CPD scheme. Tony Traynor, Swedish Wood's project manager for Wood Campus, feels they offer additional scope. "RIBA-accredited modules could form the basis of an official CPD scheme for companies in the timber trade, if a points system could be devised and regulated by, say, the Timber Trade Federation or the Wood Technology Society on the industry's behalf," he said. "Wood Campus already contains all the material for companies to create their own bespoke CPD schemes."

Over the past 10 years, the pace of development of industry-specific qualifications has accelerated. In the early years of the Career Development Award, candidates entering had, more often than not, taken the then Institute of Wood Science Timber Studies Award, which gave an overview of product knowledge. Elements of that learning have now created the basis for a technical certificate for the industry's newest apprenticeship framework, launched last September at Timber Expo by national skills academy Proskills and awarding body PIABC.

Paul Preston, awarding body officer at PIABC, says employers now have a suite of qualifications available, and can choose the pathway most relevant to the apprentices they need for their business. "The pathways available for apprentices are sawmilling, timber merchanting, and tooling technology, which covers saw doctoring and tool room operations. A timber trading company, which buys and sells, would use the timber merchanting pathway. The qualification unit covering timber and panel products and their uses, which gives a good general grounding, is available on all pathways. Other units are more specific to individual job roles.

"Qualifications have a 'shelf life'," he continued. "For the industry to gain a return on their investment in development, these qualifications now need to be taken up and used. I'm happy to help employers find their nearest study centres offering relevant qualifications - there are eight centres so far stretching from Scotland to London, and more may be added, dependent on local demand."

University graduates

It could be three years into the next decade of the Career Development Award before the first merchant industry apprentices are available to enter. In the meantime, university graduates from Edinburgh Napier University's one-year timber engineering MSc could enter the Award. TRADA's University Engagement Programme may also generate future entrants for the Career Development Award, from architecture and engineering.

Yet where will the timber business leaders of the future come from? Is our sector yet engaging with business schools at UK universities, to attract high-calibre individuals to our infinitely interesting and continuously challenging sector? On that issue we have a long way still to travel.

SCA is proud to have sponsored the Career Development Award for their first decade. Perhaps we have already glimpsed some of our future business leaders amongst the winners from the past 10 years.

How to enter

The TTJ Career Development Award 2013, sponsored by SCA Timber Supply, is open for entries. An entry form is included in this issue or can be downloaded from the TTJ Awards section on ttjonline.com.

There are two categories - trainee, which is open to entrants to the industry aged 16-25; and continuing development, for more experienced employees aged 25 and over.

Return completed forms to Mike Jeffree, Editor, TTJ, Progressive House, 2 Maidstone Road, Sidcup DA14 5HZ by Friday July 12. Entries for the TTJ Career Development Award will be judged by the editor and a specially appointed panel. Shortlisted entrants will be invited to the TTJ Awards presentation lunch on September 12 at The Savoy, London where the winner will be announced

From left: guest speaker Nick Hewer with 2012 Career Development Award over-25 winner Peter Kelly of Howarth Timber Group and Stephen King from sponsor SCA Timber Supply
Nick Hewer with last year’s under-25 Career Development Award winner, John Critchley of W Howard