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Why the Timber Industry Needs Better Training

As leaders in the timber sales industry, we pride ourselves in having the most knowledgeable customer service staff in the business. We have always been in favour of applying the highest standards to our industry.

According to the Forest Industry Advisory Council (FIAC), who were commissioned by the Australian Government to prepare a document on the state of the timber industry, the entire industry could use better training if we are to compete on an international stage in the future.

As global technology advances further, the timber industry will need a workforce that is equipped with the skills to handle both current and emerging positions. The industry will have to increase efficiency, productivity and innovation. This will require a skilled and flexible workforce that is able to meet the demands of the industry.

The concept is simple: in order for the Australian timber industry to maintain or increase its competitiveness on a global and domestic scale, training and education are going to have to rise accordingly.

As in any industry, the timber industry is reliant upon the skills of its labourers, managers, engineers and executives. The sector requires expertise in a wide range of jobs, including transport, forestry, engineering, timber harvesting and manufacturing. it is also important that the fields of market analysis and scientific research continue to grow with the industry.

It is important that the timber industry begin to identify the skills that will need to be developed in the the future, both short-term and long-term. It will be important to implement effective training and recruit people who can take the industry into the 2020’s and beyond.

Timber Industry Employees: the Demographics

The timber industry usually finds its workers via tertiary education consisting of Vocational Education and Training (VET), followed by university. Currently, 60 Registered Training Organisations (RTO’s) in Australia provide VET courses in the forestry and timber processing. Until 2011, registration had stabilised at approximately 6,000 students per year. However, that number dropped by 33% to 4,000 in 2012.

Not only are less students being trained, but RTO’s are facing increasing pressure from economic and political factors including: less Government funding, decreasing demand for education from employers, tighter regulation of RTO’s by the Government, paired with increasing fees that RTO’s have to pay to the Government. Also, some of the locations of plantations, forests and timber processing plants are so remote that it is much more difficult for RTO’s to deliver training.

At the university level, there has been a steady decrease in the number of students who choose forestry programs, resulting in less graduates. From 1994 to 2007, the amount of degrees awarded in forestry decreased by more than 50%. This is creating a shortage of qualified candidates, especially for companies which are looking for forest production skills. The shortage has become so bad that many firms are now accepting more candidates from New Zealand and South Africa because they can’t find anyone from Australia who is qualified for some of their most important positions.

Currently, there are only three universities in Australia that offer undergraduate bachelor degrees in Forest Science: the Southern Cross University (SCU), the University of Melbourne and the Australian National University (ANU). Four Australian universities currently offer postgraduate degrees: the University of Tasmania (UTAS), the University of Melbourne, ANU and SCU. UTAS is the only one of the four to offer training in the use of timber in building and in timber processing.

Forestry Science degrees and VET are not the only educational requirements of the timber industry. There is a high demand for those who can manage value chain relationships, implementation of technology and logistics. In addition, advances in technology are requiring workers with the ability to operate more high-tech equipment, especially in the development and production of more innovative products.

What it Means to You

For you and for us, it is important that the timber industry is able to meet the demands for future efficiency, innovation and delivery of timber products. Otherwise, Australia may lose ground in the constant battle for supremacy in the marketplace.

To learn more or to enquire about timber for your next project, call us today on 1300 477 024.