Speaking at the launch press conference, BWF chief executive Richard Lambert said the joinery industry has felt “neglected and ignored” by training providers and funders, including, until recently, the Construction Industry Training Board. Training for the sector has been patchy, the focus has been too much on site carpentry rather than bench joinery and existing education and qualifications have not delivered entrants to the sector with the relevant skills.

One consequence has been UK joinery firms turning to migrant workers.

“The industry needs overseas labour – the people have the skills and are willing to work,” said Mr Lambert. “But the likelihood is that most will return to their own countries and our skills gap will worsen.”

Current estimates are that UK construction needs more new recruits in woodworking than any other skill category – a total of 11,130 per year for the next five years.

“We’re not getting that number at present,” said Mr Lambert.

To remedy the situation, he said, the WIT will initially survey training provision across the sector and create a “definitive database of colleges offering woodworking training”.

It will also establish an on-site training assessment scheme and contribute to the development of joinery supervisory and management training courses and qualifications. It will look at current woodworking NVQs and how they can be improved and also focus on attracting new entrants to the business.

“The WIT is a major step in establishing relevant accessible training provision across the UK,” said Mr Lambert. “This is a modern forward-thinking industry which should be better served in this area.”

The WIT’s management board is chaired by BWF vice president Pauline Kelly, but it is open to all joinery companies, not just Federation membership. So far 80 have “responded to an invitation” to support the initiative.

The CITB has awarded the WIT a grant to cover running costs and its specialist construction skills manager Paul Gaze welcomed its launch. “An effective training body is exactly what the woodworking industry needs,” he said.