On the road to recovery

13 December 2021

David Oldfield, the new president of the BWF and director at Arnold Laver & Co is keen to support members build back stronger post-pandemic

The last few months have seen Covid-19 restrictions ease and, as everything begins to slowly return to ‘normal’, I’m excited to be supporting our members to build back stronger. For the success of our sector, I believe there are three key areas which need to be focused on: supporting BWF member business growth; developing talent within our sector and attracting the next generation into our profession; and ensuring that sustainable construction remains top of the agenda throughout the pandemic recovery.

The easing of Covid restrictions is welcome, but it’s crucial that plans remain in place to prioritise and protect the health and safety of everyone onsite and support employees back into a normal working pattern.

The BWF has been at the side of its members over the past 18 months and to support members as they welcome employees back face-to-face, we will continue to share HR, technical, health and safety advice as well as guidance and support in line with government guidelines.

The future of our sector is also dependant on several other factors which impact on growth, including the supply chain challenges we’ve faced over the past months. At the BWF we’re working alongside our industry partners to address challenges across the entire construction industry.

Another key change on the horizon is the introduction of UKCA marking to replace CE marking. Although the deadline for the introduction of UKCA marking has been postponed until January 1, 2023, the coming year will be vital for our sector in preparing for this change.

The Building Safety Bill will also bring with it welcome change – we’re closely monitoring the development of the legislation and will continue to represent our members’ views through government working groups and key industry bodies, such as the Construction Products Association.

Attracting the next generation into the woodworking and joinery profession and continuing the development of the talented individuals in our sector will be vital to our long-term recovery. The government has taken steps to support economic recovery through the National Skills Fund, which will support our members as they return to full, or increased, manufacturing capacity.

At the BWF, we have a robust set of initiatives to support each phase of the recruitment and skills development journey. The WOW I MADE THAT schools programme, for example, inspires students to pursue an apprenticeship in our sector. I started as an apprentice at Arnold Laver straight after school and, after supporting apprentices further into my career, I’m passionate about sharing the rewarding career opportunities and benefits this route can offer.

Training and ongoing skills development has been impacted by the pandemic, but now we’re on the road to recovery, it’s vital that companies invest in the development of their employees through quality assured training. The BWF’s Woodworking Industry Training Forum (WITForum) is key to tackling the current skills and training shortage. Together with members, this important initiative is an opportunity for us to come together to overcome training challenges and increase the provision of quality training for the benefit of the sector.

Businesses are understandably focused on navigating large scale issues, such as Brexit and recovering from the pandemic, but as BWF president and an advocate for sustainable building products, I believe we cannot let sustainability drop down the agenda. As we begin to build back better, now is the time to promote the benefits of timber to both the construction industry and consumer audience.

The UK has just hosted COP26 and we should take this significant event as an opportunity to drive forward the use of timber to support the government’s 2050 target for net zero carbon emissions, through the use of sustainable building materials.

The BWF’s Stair Scheme and Fire Door Alliance, as well as our activity to support the windows, doors and broader woodworking and joinery market, continue to promote the benefits of timber and champion the Construction Leadership Council’s plan and change programme (ConstructZero) for net zero carbon emissions.

In these challenging times, showcasing and celebrating the successes of our sector and the achievements made in the last 18 months is vital. With the BWF Awards nearly upon us, I’m looking forward to recognising and championing the fantastic work delivered in the past year.

As the new BWF president, I’m excited to become immersed in all aspects of activity to support our members grow and develop. We’re entering a pivotal time for our sector, but I believe for all our membership there is a real opportunity for significant growth and success.

David Oldfield was appointed BWF president in June this year