The Keys to Future Growth

As we build back better and greener post pandemic, there will be an added emphasis on skills and training, says Helen Hewitt, CEO of the British Woodworking Federation (BWF).

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly had a significant impact on our sector’s skills and training efforts, reducing the opportunity for employers to provide much needed apprenticeships and continued professional development for employees. But now, as the UK looks set to emerge from the COVID crisis, skills and training provision must become our sector’s most urgent priority.

Following the release of the IPCC report on the impacts of global warming, and in the run up to COP26, the importance of promoting ‘green jobs’ in line with net zero targets cannot be overlooked. The UK government has outlined a series of green programmes providing adults with the skills needed to pursue a career in a sustainable field – as a sector we must advocate for careers in woodworking and joinery and promote the opportunities we provide to upskill and reskill. So, what are the key areas where we should be focusing our efforts as a sector to ensure future growth?

The BWF is constantly reviewing its skills and training offering to ensure it meets the needs of our members. As our sector recovers from the pandemic, we’re focusing our efforts on establishing relationships with a wider cohort of UK training providers to increase the range of skills, training solutions and the choice of providers available to our members. The developments in our skills and training offering will also inform the BWF’s future Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programme, which will be in development next year.

In addition to growing our portfolio of training opportunities, we’re also evolving how we deliver these to our members. Our e-learning platform provides access to quality online training provision, meeting a vital need for today’s remote learning environment and helping to develop a resilient training offer for our sector. We’re also looking at how we can make our online learning more interactive – for example, by using innovative gaming technology to bring training to life and to encourage upskilling within the industry.

We are encouraged to see that apprenticeship schemes are more widely being seen as a viable and rewarding alternative to university across the talent pool. Apprenticeship schemes are now being recognised as a way of starting on a rewarding career path which allows young people to earn while they learn. It is therefore crucial that as a sector we act now to ensure other sectors don’t lay claim to this emerging talent pool.

We must promote the opportunities available in our sector for skills and training provision in order to attract a new talent workforce of people looking to work in sustainable lower carbon sectors like ours. To ensure our sector continues to grow year on year, we must focus in particular on apprenticeship schemes as a rewarding alternative to university. We are a strong and resilient sector, but this is down to the people and skills that we retain. If we don’t continue to nurture this, then we risk jeopardising the continued success and future growth of our sector. It’s essential that we seize the opportunity we have in front of us now.

For the complete feature read the Autumn 2021 Issue of Timber Construction

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