Recovery Mode

David Oldfield, President of the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) and Director at Arnold Laver & Co, outlines the importance of supporting the joinery sector as it recovers post-pandemic.

Since taking on the BWF presidency in July 2021, I have been reflecting on the challenges the industry has faced during the pandemic and due to the changes brought about through Brexit. It’s been a difficult time for many of our members but continuing to help them navigate these challenges is a key focus of my role.

I believe there are three areas that will continue to be fundamental to the growth and future success of our sector – supporting BWF member business growth: attracting the next generation of talent into our sector and developing the talent within the profession and ensuring that sustainable construction doesn’t slip down the agenda throughout the pandemic recovery.

The future of our sector is dependent on several factors which impact on growth, including the supply chain challenges we’ve faced over the past months. I’ve seen first-hand the pressure this has placed on our members and sector. At the BWF we’re working alongside our industry partners to address challenges across the entire construction industry.

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

We also welcome the changes which will be brought about by the Building Safety Bill – 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.

For our sector, attracting the next generation of talent and continuing the professional development of those within our profession will be crucial to recovery post-pandemic, especially in the wake of Brexit and its impact on skills availability. The Government has made new funding available to support economic recovery through initiatives such as the National Skills Fund initiative, which will be of support to our members as they return to full, or in some cases increased, manufacturing capacity.

Training and investment in the development of our workforce should be a priority as we recover from the pandemic. Our Woodworking Industry Training Forum (WITForum) initiative enables us to collaborate with members to tackle the skills and training shortage and increase the provision of quality training for the whole sector.

Understandably, businesses have been focusing on navigating large scale issues such as Brexit, supply chain issues and recovering from the pandemic, and in the midst of these challenges it would be easy for sustainability to slip down the agenda. As BWF President and an advocate for sustainable products, I believe we must keep sustainability at the top of the agenda.

Now is the time to make the benefits of timber as a sustainable building material known to both the construction industry and the general public. With the UK hosting COP26, we should use this historic event and the upcoming Environment Bill as an opportunity to drive forward the use of timber, and to support the Government’s 2050 target for net zero carbon emissions through the use of sustainable building materials.

At the BWF, our successful schemes such as the Stair Scheme and Fire Door Alliance, as well as our activity to support the windows and doors 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.

I believe that celebrating the success of our sector and recognising our achievements is hugely important, particularly in these challenging times. I’m excited to become immersed in all aspects of the BWF and look forward to representing and supporting all our members as they grow and develop at such a pivotal time for our sector. 

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