Why training and developing staff is last on the list for many employers in the forest and timber Industry
So you have just employed a new worker in your business. Your goal as the employer is to get them to be as productive as possible in the least amount of time. Typically, no matter what the job role is, you will most likely put them with an experienced worker and give them a few days training to make sure that they can do the job correctly, which validates your decision to put them on in the first place.
Most likely the new worker will learn on the job, but in reality it will take twice as long to get them up to speed because often the initial training is ad hoc, disjointed and carried out by someone who is possibly too busy to spend much time with the new worker and train them properly in the first place.
But is the above scenario good enough these days?
Is it typical for most small to medium businesses in our industry?
Based on our experience, we would argue that it is all too common practice. Most employers that don’t have a structured approach to training and development in place don’t see the value or the need or simply don’t make the time to adequately train both new and existing workers.
There are exceptions to the rule of course. TABMA members such as 5 Star Timbers, Versace, Hardware and General and Hudsons clearly see the need and value in effective training for their staff. That’s why they invest both the time and money into making sure their workers are trained effectively. And their staff retention rates reflect these good practices!
What about the current workforce in the forest and timber industry?
Industry statistics suggest that over 2/3rds of the workforce are aged 50+ plus. In addition, the Forest and Timber industry suffers from extreme difficulty in attracting young people to employment as well as finding qualified people in specialist areas like the frame and truss sector such as estimators and detailers.
In response to severe shortages in this sector, most of the estimating work has gone offshore. Very few frame and truss plants are taking the time to train up new estimators/ detailers. Instead, they rely on “head hunting” from within the industry to attract the staff they need, often finding this a difficult, frustrating and time consuming exercise.
This sector of our industry will continue to struggle and more frame and truss plants will close as they no longer can compete with the larger plants who have focussed on developing their staff in this area like Laings Building Supplies.
Let’s turn our attention to workplace health and safety.
Since 2011, Australia has had a more unified approach to national workplace health and safety standards and regulations (harmonisation).
All businesses (PCBU- person carrying out a business undertaking) are required to have a systematic approach to workplace health and safety in place and clear evidence that they have consulted with staff and proactively identify hazards in the workplace, with risk management controls in place to manage such hazards.
To date, the respective State workplace Health and safety regulators have adopted a much more consultative approach to compliance with workplace health and safety in the workplace.
This is all about to change. In Queensland, due to incidents resulting in workplace deaths at the Eagle Farm Racecourse and Dreamworld last year, the Palaszczuk Government has progressed a review of the role of Work Health and Safety Queensland and the provisions of the WHS Act and is planning to introduce a range of changes before the State election.
The changes proposed include harsher penalties for breaches of the legislation, changes in the of role of the regulator (WHSQ) to increase the focus on compliance, and the introduction of a new offence of “industrial manslaughter”.
Under the Government’s proposed changes, the maximum penalty for industrial manslaughter will be 20 years imprisonment for an individual, and/or a maximum fine of $10 million for a company. Industrial manslaughter refers to the workplace death of an employee or member of the public as a result of the negligent acts or omissions of an employer.
The proposed changes appear to reflect a view within the Government that employers have not done enough in relation to the safety of employees and the public. Any increased emphasis on compliance and the application of penalties where breaches are identified is concerning and will require all employers to ensure a strong focus on workplace safety, including the safe operation of vehicles, including forklifts.
Sawmilling industry review
In addition, WHSQ has just completed a a review of the sawmilling industry in Queensland and has introduced a Code of Practice for safe operations in this industry sector. No doubt at some stage, there will be a follow up of those sawmills deemed to be “most at risk” in complying with workplace health and safety standards.
And finally, what about our future leaders within the industry?
How do we develop the next generation of supervisors and managers within our industry?
Over 10 years ago, Hyne Timber implemented an innovative and very successful cadetship program which led to supervisors and managers developing strong skill sets and pathways in leadership and management roles.
Today, Hyne’s program is still regarded as a flagship program which led to effectively developing the skills and knowledge of these supervisors and managers who have now moved
on throughout the industry into various senior management roles.
More recently, ITI nationally, successfully completed a cadetship program with 13 of its trainees managed by the TABMA GTO in a dual Certificate IV in Business Sales and Leadership and Management qualifications. Over half of the graduates have now been earmarked for important roles within ITI’s operations.
Sadly, these examples are all too few within the timber industry.
Employers still count the cost of such programs rather than seeing them as an investment in the future of their business. This is even more surprising when a number of State Governments such as New South Wales (Smart and Skilled) and Queensland (User Choice) have allocated significant funding for both existing and new workers within various industry sectors.
Yet, why is the take-up of new traineeships in our industry so poor?
And, how do we develop future leaders in the industry if we are not prepared to invest in adequately training and developing staff?
So if you are looking to develop an aligned workforce with adequate capability and capacity, and wish to operate not only safely but profitability, then maybe it’s time to start rethinking how you are going to upskill and retain your workforce.
TABMA can assist you in many of the areas that have been mentioned previously such as Workplace
Health and Safety Audits, recruiting new staff, employing trainees and apprentices, and upskilling the leadership and management skills of your supervisors and managers.
Isn’t it time you started putting the training and development of your staff first on your list rather than last? After all, what have you got to lose? Only increased productivity, retention of staff, and better customer service. Not a bad trade-off if you ask me!
TABMA Training is Australia’s leading forest and timber industry training organisation. Established since 1998 (RTO 5343 FITEC Australia), with highly skilled trainers that take pride in delivering high quality skills based training and assessment tailored to suit specific operational needs of businesses.
All of our trainers are highly experienced with over 10+ years of direct industry experience. We can go to your site to customise programs to suit that will minimise downtime but will lead to the upskilling of your workers in the most effective way possible.
From full qualifications in key areas such as business, sales, warehousing, timber merchandising, manufacturing, frame and truss and sawmilling to short courses designed for maximum impact such as forklift, chainsaw, timber knowledge, customer service, workplace health and safety, and performance management.
Our training strategies are designed to increase job satisfaction, help retain staff and increase efficiency. And your business or staff may be eligible for Government funding to subsidise various qualifications.
Ben Cousins -- National Trainee of the year from ITI.
Laings Building Supplies -- Best Frame & Truss operation.
Parkside Timbers --Most Innovative.