Workforce Development Project

Image credit: Norelco Cabinets

About BC Wood & the Workforce Development Project

BC Wood is a recognized not-for-profit trade association representing the Value-added Wood Products Sector in British Columbia’s for over 30 years. We are an industry-led organization responsive to our membership of over 120 companies. These members represent a cross-section of wood manufacturers across the province which includes: Engineered Wood, Log & Timber Frame Housing, Prebuilt Housing, Cabinetry, Furniture, Millwork and Remanufactured Wood among others. Through consultation with our members, as far back as 2016 one theme that kept being repeated was quality workers and access to them.  Our sector plays a vital role in the Economy of the province and it is critical that we continue to move forward as an Industry.  Proactive as we collectively encounter challenges, we develop solutions highlighting a pathway towards future growth while continuing to service customers in a Global Marketplace.

Recognition of this resourcing challenge initiated our Strategic Review of Value-added Woodworker training and retention and brought us to the place we are on today.

This has been a multi-year project funded through the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training’s Sector Labour Market Partnerships (SLMP) program with Phases over several years

Project Phases

The workforce development project has been divided into four primary phases:

Phase 1

The Overview - 2017

Phase 2

Envisioning a Solution - 2018

Phase 3

Workforce Development Strategies

Phase 4

Strategy Implementation

Phase I (2017), The Overview

Phase I was the collection and analysis of labour market information (LMI).  This research identified a number of workforce challenges facing employers in the Value-Added Wood sector, including acute labour shortages, a lack of diversity in the sector, low levels of awareness about available career paths and advancement opportunities, as well as the lack of effective and available training.

This research project highlighted the shortcomings of the industry in relation to labour and proposed solutions: raising the profile of the industry illuminating it as a viable career path, employer investing in their people through training, with the anticipated result(s) of improved productivity, profitability and growth.

Phase II (2018), Envisioning a Solution

This a continuation of the 2017 work, where Phase I had identified possible shortcomings, Phase II focused on developing solutions.

Identified shortcomings:

  • Shortage of qualified workers – majority of shortages are in skilled trades people;
  • Difficulty attracting new entrants – lack of awareness to industry jobs within key demographics which included youth;
  • Lack of effective and accessible training – employers viewed training as necessary for advancement given labour shortages, which includes learning modules and onsite visits; and
  • Sustained labour productivity is key to long term success – improve productivity by adopting new technology, as well as building onto a workers’ skill set.

Proposed solutions:

  • Raise awareness – companies are encouraged to get involved with high school, and post-secondary programs;
  • Improve attraction – target those who historically have been under represented in industry and demonstrate the value of the work that this industry provides;
  • Improve retention – use measured approaches to on-the-job learning to preserve interest and display the viability of employment in this sector; and
  • Strengthen training – concise learning modules and on-site visits from experts.

Phase III, Workforce Development Strategies

This Phase identified workforce development issues experienced by Industry and with the assistance of an active Advisory Group created three strategies to address entry level worker shortages, skilled worker skill development and increasing small and medium employers HR practices to assist with attraction and retention. The strategies will be developed and piloted with final recommendations for implementation resulting at the conclusion of Phase IV.

Key Strategies:

Strategy 1: VAW Work-ready Training for Entry-Level workers – Develop a VAW work-ready training program to deliver the necessary basic skills to enter the sector;

Strategy 2: VAW Skilled Worker Training for Skilled Production workers – Identify knowledge gaps and provide targeted training and invest in those individuals to improve their productivity as well as revitalizing their re-engagement leading to improved job satisfaction; and

Strategy 3: VAW Workforce Development Supports (HR Tool Kit) – Help employers access workforce development supports and leverage best practices with access to coaching and mentorship all to provide better Workforce Development outcomes.

This brings us to where we are today…

Phase IV (2023), Strategy Implementation

The industry is making an investment in talent – we are getting the message out that we present a viable career path where one can realize tangible outcomes from your work. This can be a dynamic and engaging career where day-to-day tasks can draw on a range of skills, from using hand tools to more technical equipment such as CNCs.

Pilot training materials for Work Ready program are currently under development and will be delivered at 4 to 5 locations around the province in early 2024. Designed to be delivered within approximately 4 weeks, the training will give the participants quicker access to employment opportunities. Pilot participants will also receive hands-on experience with exposure to potential employment opportunities once the program is completed.

Interested? You bring the interest and we will provide the training. 

In addition, to address the needs of the Skilled Production Worker, a model is being developed to identify knowledge gaps and once they are recognized those areas will be filled with specific training making those workers more productive as well as giving them a sense of accomplishment/job satisfaction.

Finally, the development of Value-Added Wood Workforce Development Supports (HR Tool Kit) which will help small to mid-sized employers access workforce development supports, leverage best HR practices with access to coaching and mentorship all to provide better Workforce Development outcomes.