CTI Blog

CTI Blog - Timber industry: investing in young people for a brighter future

This blog post is by Dirk Vennix, CTI Chief Executive

Some time ago I was roaming around a village book fair when I stumbled upon the biography of Dr Carl Horst Hahn, chairman emeritus of Volkswagen Group. ‘From apprentice to CEO: Carl Hahn 40 years in Volkswagen’ was an inspiring, motivational example of what you can achieve with clear targets in mind and solid support from your employer.

Building a career like Carl Hahn did, step by step, is a huge challenge. Every year thousands of youngsters in the UK start their careers as apprentices looking for an opportunity to learn, earn and grow. And many businesses in the timber supply chain already offer apprenticeship places. According to the Skill Funding Agency report (December 2014), more than 850,000 people have been involved in an apprenticeship in a range of business sectors from 2013 to 2014. Their work contributed £34 billion to the UK economy in 2014.

We are talking about investing in the future. A concept which the companies working across the timber supply chain implement on a daily basis. Think about it for a few minutes and you will discover that the career opportunities are immense. From Forestry to Shipping; from Manufacturing to Distributing; from Printing to Energy Production, the Timber Industry is an endless source of possibilities.  Currently, timber related apprenticeships feature saw mills, wood machinists, boat buildings, carpentry and joinery, administration, sales, flooring, marketing, manufacturing and many more.

That’s why the CTI strongly believes that Education and Skills development needs to match these opportunities to ensure that Timber leads the way in 21st Century Construction.  On the 23th of September the CTI network will meet to set up a specific workgroup on this subject involving a range of organisations and companies across the Timber Industry. Firstly we need to answer some questions: where are the skills shortages? Where will the supply come from? What is needed in terms of funding and infrastructure? How do we get the next generation to want a career in the timber sector? How do we get specifiers, designers and contractors to increase demand for their skills?

Secondly, we must realise that educational programmes are win-win scenarios. For example, thanks to the apprenticeships scheme, young people now have more opportunities to learn as they earn, gaining a recognised qualification and growing their careers. On the other hand, employers also benefit from training their future managers, instilling company values and gaining their loyalty whilst strengthening mutually beneficial relationships with colleges and getting helpful grants.

Last but not least, we shouldn’t forget the current economic situation. In these uncertain times it pays to train and be open to creative solutions. Businesses that invest in their workforce are more likely to flourish again and survive in the long-term. As Gerald Chertavian, Founder and CEO of Year Up said: “Investing in our young people is not just a matter of economic justice, it’s good business sense.”

CTI Blog - Newborn CTI takes first steps

This blog post is by Dirk Vennix, CTI Chief Executive

Welcome to the first CTI blog. Written at a point in time when we are opening up a new chapter in the illustrious history of timber in this country. The Confederation was born six weeks ago and it is without question a lively baby! Already we have had a lot of engagement with the industry and our new Supporters Network now includes 38 organisations coming from all parts of the UK Timber Supply Chain. Not even in our most optimistic scenarios did we envisage such an enthusiastic response in such a short space of time.

Having said that, this is only the beginning and we have no intention to rest on our laurels. Autumn 2015 will provide further evidence of CTI’s strategy bearing fruit. The next step will be the first Supporters Network meeting on the 23rd of September which brings back together all CTI’s supporters and interested parties in London. Open invitations will be sent out shortly. The event’s objective is clear cut:  discussing the future membership structure and activities of the Confederation. We will start the process of forming CTI working groups which will scope and commission reports in three key areas: Value and Growth; Sustainability and Quality of standards; Skills and Education. Knowing we will have so much imagination, expertise and passion in the room we can’t wait to get started!

With the same enthusiasm and energy the Confederation will also start to develop new relationships with Governments and Parliaments. This is definitely the right time for a change in mind set and a co-ordinated approach by the industry will ensure a strong voice will be heard on growing the low carbon economy. No wonder our agenda for the next few months includes party conferences, representations and a parliamentary event in November. And already our initial contacts are generating positive responses.

Finally, we mustn’t forget the most important and unifying theme behind the CTI’s mission: the beauty of timber. That’s why we are proud to promote excellence across the Timber Supply Chain. On 24 September we are supporting the award for Timber Trader of the Year at the TTJ Awards in London. Less than two weeks later we will be sponsoring the Product Innovation Award at the Structural Timber Awards (Timber Expo in Birmingham). Last but not least, we will be backing excellence in architecture and product design at the Wood Awards on 10 November.

There you have it in a nutshell. As a new chapter is written in the history of timber the building blocks are taking shape in the form of a strong network, effective stakeholder engagement and high profile promotion. Do join us and help guide the lively baby into becoming a focused toddler

CTI Blog - Scrapping zero-carbon homes is a false economy

This blog post is by David Hopkins, Executive Director of Wood for Good.

The Government has announced that it will scrap the zero-carbon homes target in an effort to apparently “improve housebuilding productivity.”

The zero-carbon policy was originally introduced as a step to meeting the 2008 Climate Change Act’s mandate of an 80% reduction in CO2 from the 1990 levels, by 2050. The Government has claimed that by scrapping the target it aims to reduce regulations on housebuilding and increase productivity in the sector.

However, removing the policy will not only significantly hinder the UK in meeting wider climate change goals, it is also unlikely to lead to any marked improvement in productivity.

There’s a widely held misconception that creating sustainable homes takes longer and is more expensive. This doesn’t need to be the case. In fact, it’s still quicker and more efficient to manufacture, deliver and assemble a high-quality, low-carbon timber-frame building than build one on-site with lower thermal insulation built from materials which directly contribute to carbon emissions.

Scrapping zero-carbon is a false economy. In terms of future productivity, building significant quantities of homes without sustainability in mind now, sets the UK up for a need for continued and expensive maintenance and repair works for the future.

Take social housing – the growing problem of fuel poverty has driven a need for registered providers to retroactively build sustainability into their property portfolios. Many have implemented solar panels, biomass systems, and external and internal insulation funded by the Green Deal, ECO and vast quantities of their own capital.

If sustainability isn’t factored into new build developments now, it will prolong the need for retrospective action in the long term – creating an extra, ongoing financial burden on an important sector.

There is also obvious financial merit in continuing to create sustainable homes in private house building. Timber’s naturally high thermal insulation also acts as a selling point – lowering the need for future retro insulation measures and making homes more attractive to new owners or renters.

Off-site construction using timber can also reduce build times by weeks and even months, improving the efficiency of the build process, allowing new tenants or owners to move in more quickly, and thereby improving the productivity of the project.

Despite the change in plans, the opportunities to continue to improve sustainability are still very much within in the housebuilding sector’s grasp.

This short-sighted policy should therefore not provide cause for developers to ignore sustainability – especially when you consider the significant inroads the industry has made in improving efficiency in housing over the past decade and the continued market demand for this to be included in new homes.

The Government has only removed the targets at the top. This should not mean we have to accept a spiralling race to the bottom

CTI Blog - Missed opportunities in the Summer Budget

This blog post is by David Hopkins, Executive Director at Wood for Good.

There were some very clever gimmicks within the Budget announcement. However, four months on from the Chancellor’s pre-election budget, it’s disappointing to see key issues surrounding manufacturing, housebuilding and climate change omitted once again.

Not only do these both represent significant challenges for the UK, but they are all key drivers for economic growth.

The UK timber industry is a vital £9 billion low-carbon manufacturing sector that is key to achieving cheaper, quicker, and more sustainable delivery of housing. Recent reports show that yearly output levels of new homes would more than double, and exceed annual housebuilding targets, if off-site methods were used.

The UK needs a new era of sustainable construction with wood at its heart to boost our economy and reduce our emissions. The budget has missed an opportunity to help drive this forward.