Making timber more appealing to the young

Michael Donaldson, Commercial Manager, MGM Timber on how we can open up the timber industry to more young people

Most people know that the timber industry is about more than just a man in a lumber jack shirt and an axe in his hand! However, the sad reality is that this might be the only image that young people have of the industry.

Last year, the Office of National Statistics revealed that the timber and forestry industry stood at number 18 in a list of 120 major industries in the UK. This is a big deal. And it’s something that more people should be aware of, especially the next generation of youngsters who we want to lead the industry.

But how do we do this? Let’s face it, it’s probably not going to be the number one career choice for a young person living in a city environment.

Some of these answers might come from the new employer skills survey about the UK’s Timber Industry Supply Chain, which is being undertaken by the Proskills UK Group and The Confederation of Timber Industry (CTI), and is one of the largest of its kind. The findings will aim to identify the current level of skills shortages and gaps in education provision within the whole Timber Industry Supply Chain, from forestry to builders’ merchants and manufacturers.

Whilst MGM is a timber merchant, as opposed to a sawmill, the jobs available at branches like ours still rely on fresh blood looking to get into a trade and as many will vouch for, it’s one which can be very rewarding.

We’ve been open for 25 years this year and many of our staff have been with us since the beginning. They have skills that we need to ensure are passed onto the next generation. And once young people get into a branch like ours, or indeed a sawmill, there are ample opportunities for them to move into different roles within the industry. You could say, there’s room to grow!

Overall, the industry needs to be made more accessible to young people. Something needs to inspire them. Demonstrating the range of roles might help this. This summer, we’ll be working with students from three schools in Scotland on a live project brief, encouraging them to design an item which reflects our anniversary year. Could more outreach to schools form part of the solution?

There’s also the fact that timber is considered to be one of the most sustainable and environmental products on the market. It’s the material of choice for builders and this opens up a whole host of additional opportunities for young people who are new to the industry.

The timber industry is a growing and flourishing one and most recently, the Scottish Government acknowledged that Scotland could be in danger of falling into the ‘timber gap’ and that this could cause a long-term drop-off in supply. They have therefore pledged to plant 200 million new trees by 2022. Who’s going to manage these new sites? Who is going to process the product? Who is going to deliver this product to businesses like MGM?

We all need to play our part in inspiring the next generation to get involved. What can we do differently? How can we use our talent and resource? Let’s get our thinking caps on before it’s too late.

MGM Timber (Scotland) Ltd was established in 1991 and has grown to become Scotland’s local independent timber merchant of choice for both trade and retail customers.

About Guest Blogger - Michael Donaldson

Michael Donaldospn is commercial manager of MGM Timber (Scotland) Ltd

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