BWF endorses Chancellor’s plans to build more homes but warns that skills shortages could undermine his vision

The British Woodworking Federation (BWF) has responded to today's Autumn Statement and Comprehensive Spending Review from the Chancellor, endorsing the plans to build more homes but warning that the Chancellor’s vision will be undermined if the UK construction industry cannot meet the subsequent demand for skilled workers and high quality apprenticeships.

Iain McIlwee, chief executive of the BWF, said:

“The BWF welcomes measures to increase housebuilding as that boosts the market for many of the high quality timber products and services provided by our members. But  even given the newest technologies, offsite manufacturing and fast-tracked planning, the nation cannot benefit from a boost in homebuilding when our physical capacity risks being constrained by a widening skills gap and continued uncertainty here creates challenge.

“A steady flow of new joiners and carpenters is critical to the Chancellor’s new housing ambitions. We have already warned that there could be a catastrophic collapse in apprenticeships if the CITB’s services are lost to construction and this would undermine the whole vision expressed by the Chancellor today.

“So we are keen to participate in the further development of the proposed Apprenticeship Levy now that government has confirmed the scope and the rate of the Levy, and has confirmed that all employers committed to training and development will be able to access this support. It’s particularly good news that the focus is on quality apprenticeships and ensuring standards of training are high, and we will continue to work closely with the industry’s training providers to develop improved qualifications for joinery and wood skills.

“The UK’s joinery and woodworking sector delivers a third of all apprenticeships in construction, the highest ratio in all the specialist trades. The joinery apprentice is the lifeblood of this industry. We are working flat out to try and increase the number of high quality apprenticeships in joinery and woodworking, helping the industry to reach its recruitment target of more than 4,000 new people a year for the next four years.”

View the BWF Manifesto here and learn more about the skills requirements, support for UK manufacturing and the sustainability of timber.