A Message from WMC’s President
It’s hard to believe that 10 years have passed since we first opened the doors of the Wood Manufacturing Council. Those early days were exciting times as our Board of Directors and staff set out to create a new organisation aimed at addressing the long-term HR issues being faced by those in the wood manufacturing industry. I smile as I think of how we took this new opportunity and followed the research, which was gathered from people in our industry, to develop solutions for these HR challenges. Our “founding members” established an organisation with a unique opportunity to contribute and we were determined to make sure that industry received the support they needed. From the beginning, and even to this day, we spent hours talking to companies so we could pinpoint areas in which we could offer support and guidance and value to their business.
From the outset we invested a significant amount of resources in the development of Labour Market Information (LMI), which allowed us to document the challenges and to qualify and quantify the HR issues, so we might understand what were the priorities and what the solutions might be. Inherently, the industry knew what they needed, but having documented research allowed us to make a strong case to access support for developing solutions.
Our first effort was to produce a Situational Analysis, a secondary research piece that allowed us to understand the demographics of the sector and to compile a useful summary of the studies that had been done to date on HR and related issues in our sector. It provided us with a very good initial list of critical HR challenges to follow. As time went on and we continued to “drill down” in some of the areas of concern, it was determined that we needed a more comprehensive study, which provided for some primary research and allowed us to undertake some unique forecasting of the employment in our sector. The 2008 sector study resulted in 6 specific research reports and a final summary report. We achieved great success as our final report brought together vital information on trends, demographics, and market issues. We covered areas such as attraction, recruitment and retention and we provided information on labour market outlooks, skills needs and training. Industry was provided with helpful information on customer requirements, as well as technology impacts and roadmaps. Likely never before was there a study that gathered all of this information in one place for our sector, and now there was. The study was used by many in the industry, educational institutions and certainly by governments. This information was critical to the WMC in making our case for the projects we wanted to undertake in order to provide useful tools and resources for the industry.
Building upon our findings, we began to focus on transforming this data into tools that companies could use this to their advantage Industry would need our support to research solutions for new technology, implementation, training, assessments etc. Uniquely positioned to work in this area, as one of Canada’s Sector Councils, WMC devoted it’s time to developing the necessary HR tools, programs and solutions that could be easily accessed by all companies, small to large. We made these tools economical so that companies could benefit from them, while keeping their costs down and remaining focused on their business activities.
We now offer an extensive suite of HR related tools that are proving to be assets for companies in their daily HR needs, and for their long-term growth. Along the way, WMC has come up with a Virtual HR Department, Prior Learning Assessment & Recognition Tool, Rapid Internal Skills Enhancement program, the On-Line Management Training Program, the Essential Skills Assessment Tool, and Going Global workshops to provide wood-based international trade training. We also continued to update our labour market information on a regular basis to ensure it was consistent with the economic times our industry was facing.
WMC, recognizing the importance of partnering industry with education, took on a new initiative. We assumed ownership of a program called WOODLINKS, which initially was developed in response to the needs of industry and secondary school educators. Recognizing the potential this course has in introducing students to the industry and at the same time providing wood manufacturing companies with skilled entry-level workers, WMC was honored to be able to continue the efforts of the WoodLINKS Society in BC and its supporters, who initially developed the program. Because of our national mandate, we were able to offer it from BC to the Atlantic Provinces. We have met with school boards, ministries of education, and high school teachers to promote the program and have expanded the curriculum to include sub-sector modules. Today, WOODLINKS continues to grow in many jurisdictions across Canada.
While implementing WOODLINKS across the country, WMC noted that there was also a need for a pre-employment program. Again being led by the LMI to consider that the additional employees our sector would need (in good economic times) could be recruited from various equity groups. Determined to offer opportunity to all Canadians, WMC established a program called WERC (Wood Employment Readiness Curriculum). This program was designed to train individuals for entry-level occupations in advanced wood manufacturing, specifically for First Nations, Inuit and Métis, new immigrants and persons with disabilities. It combines wood manufacturing skills, essential skills and basic life skill training together, and serves a useful place in the spectrum of employer needs. We are happy to say that many of the graduates of the program have now been placed with wood sector companies.
Firms that have used our tools and program have told us they are helping with their HR efforts. I look back at the past 10 years and I am proud of what we, the sector, have accomplished. We have a wide range of solutions that address many of those challenges identified in the LMI. I thank those who were at the forefront, our founders and Board members over the years, and our project managers, some of whom have come and gone but who contributed to the useful tools that live on. I am very thankful to our many Steering Committee members - volunteers from industry, government, education and other groups. Their advice and input was instrumental in developing relevant products. In reality, we did not have any great difficulty finding representatives to serve, as people are proud of their industries, and saw the opportunity to address a need. The WMC really provides a vehicle by which they can give back, help companies and workers succeed and support the sector as a whole. WMC serves as a national forum to address these issues. We ensured we were working with companies and stakeholders of all sizes from all across Canada, and we brought them together to develop solutions that they could take back to their own regions and constituents to provide value. We knew we had common issues, and it was our good fortune to be able to say to talented and committed people “come and help us develop good materials and products so they can benefit the whole industry”.
As we look towards the future, I feel there is much more to come. More companies will benefit from the existing products and services and we will look to the LMI for opportunities to expand what we do to assist the advanced wood processing sector. The WMC has lots more to deliver in terms of value and support to the skills, training and HR needs of our industry. This was what the Wood Manufacturing Council was created to do. WMC looks forward to keeping our existing tools current with today’s needs and continuing to develop tools and programs to help companies achieve longevity and success.
Richard Lipman, President
Wood Manufacturing Council
(This article was first published as a WMC Column in Woodworking Magazine.)