A Problem Sawmills Need To Address!

POST DATE Oct 02, 2014


I have been to a lot of trade shows and filers conventions. A common theme is emerging at each one; business is improving at a rapid rate and sawmills are going full tilt. This is great news but what’s holding many back is the lack of acquiring more skilled labourers (especially Sawfilers.)

In one region of the United States, I was told there is a demand for at least 39 Sawfilers, if not more. When I attend these conventions, I notice that many current filers are not getting any younger and many will be retiring over the next decade. What I don’t see is many young Sawfilers at these conventions indicating that there aren’t very many entering the field.

I guess what needs to happen, and soon, is sawmills will have to make a greater investment in recruiting and training Sawfilers. New Sawfilers need to be trained to meet the needs of sawmills as the older (and very skilled) Sawfilers retire.

This isn’t a suggestion but a reality.

It needs to start happening now or many sawmills will have a great difficulty running. I consider this a ‘skills gap’ as the industry likes to call it. A ‘skills gap’ means there is a lack of skilled labor compared to the demand. Sawfilers are in this category and what makes it worse is that they’re really specific to the sawmill industry.

I initially thought that there was an easy answer to this ‘skills gap.’ Which would be to hire more young people and train them.

This answer was too simple.

What I discovered is that there are other higher paying jobs that are attracting todays talented young people to other industries. These industries include the oil & gas and construction industry. These higher paying jobs are taking away from the talent pool that’s available to the sawmill industry.

The lumber industry and sawmills aren’t the only ones having a problem with this shortfall. Many manufacturing industries downsized in the last recession. They’re feeling it as well. There was little to no investment by these industries during that period and many of the laid off workers found jobs in other industries or have since retired. The shortage of skilled workers is having a big effect on the North American economy and will become a large problem over the next decade if nothing is done right away. Many companies will fail if this isn’t addressed.

Training skilled employees isn’t optional. It should start now and without hesitation or the consequences will be dire. Since all industries in North America will need to start right now, there will be extreme competition for the talented young people. The sooner a company, or industry, starts training to address the ‘skills gap,’ the better. If they leave it till later there will be a far smaller talent pool to draw from therefore limiting the potential of a company or industry.

The time to start training is now. Your company or industry will regret it in the future if you don’t.

Your thoughts?

Author: Udo Jahn

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