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Wood Science and Career Development - the Winning Stories

The September/October edition of the TTJ features a supplement which includes the winners in all the categories of our Sector’s most prestigious annual event. Here we cast the spotlight on one of the categories which is not voted on, but judged, by a panel of wood industry specialists, the Career Development Awards. Split into two sections, ‘Over 25’ and ‘Under 25’, six outstanding people are shortlisted and two of them will each be presented with an Award – one in each section - at the Annual Lunch on the day. We’ve been looking into the recent history of this event and the role that wood science qualifications have played in attracting entrants and producing many of the winners.

“Looking back, I was at the 2015 lunch…” said Jan Antonovics, our Commercial Manager “…to support 3 candidates, one of whom was declared the Winner of the Under 25 section, from the Lathams Group. Lathams had always used the Institute of Wood Science Level 2 Timber Studies course (now the IOM3 Timber and Panel Products Award); and Dominic Manfredini, from Leeds, who won in his category, wanted to do more to progress his career…” she continued. Meetings were conducted a few weeks later, at the then Timber Expo and subsequently, a number of other major companies emerged, leading to the huge success of what is now the Woodexperts’ Level 4 Certificate in Wood Science and Timber Technology, which has been running for 6 years since that time.

James Latham plc have been a strong supporter of the Qualification; and 10 candidates for the Exam came forward in that first year, one of whom, Toby Hughff, was nominated in 2017, another in 2018, and Latham’s have also put forward a third, Emma Atkins, this year.

Ridgeons Forest Products – now part of Huws Gray – also sent 3 staff on the first Wood Science course, a confidence that was rewarded when Chris Wait triumphed in the Under 25 category a year later, and they have again entered in 2021, with newly-qualified Samantha Bedford.

Major national merchant Jewsons were the next to make a commitment; and an initial group of 6 began their studies in 2016, with one nominee shortlisted for the awards in 2017. Since then, a further 18 students from that company have been welcomed onto the Course, the Winner of the Over 25 Category for 2019 having been produced in Gareth Nicholls, who went on to be promoted and took on a new job mentoring and training “timber champions” in his role as regional Timber Support Manager.

Key importer and distributor Hanson Plywood have also featured heavily in the student numbers, with all their new entrants at Sales level and above being encouraged to complete the Woodexperts course, and their success this year resulted in 2 entrants in the Over 25 section: Shaun Webster and Luke Wilczynski.

Another big player, The National Timber Group, which was not even in existence when the current Certificate course began, also had a candidate entered in this year’s Awards, Thornbridge Timber’s Ian Paterson, one of the first for Wood Science entrants from Scotland, also included in this year’s entries were 3 candidates from softwood sawmillers Russwood Ltd. Other key supporters include Arbor Forest Products, B&K Structures, GE Robinson & Co, Palmer Timber and Vastern Timber, plus other independent students from across the UK timber sector. There has also been an amazing contribution from Award Sponsors Glennon Brothers, who honoured the winners of the 2015 Awards with an all-expenses-paid visit to their sawmills and other facilities in the Republic of Ireland, a trip which has now become a feature of this Award, to truly recognise the achievements of all the shortlisted candidates.

The Shortlist for the Awards was announced on 1st September 2021, “…We wish our students all the best in the Awards, and are pleased to have three of the four candidates featuring in the Over 25 Category” said our Director Jim Coulson, who was responsible for creating, writing and initially tutoring some of the first courses. “...Wood Science is clearly a major factor in achieving success in this most prestigious Timber Trade event, good luck to Emma (Lathams), Gareth (Russwood) and Samantha (Huws Gray Ridgeons) on the day”, he added, “…and full credit also is due to our tutors, Simon Brock and Neil Summers, for their part in this result”

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