How do we get more young people into traditional industries? We have heard media coverage in the UK of our young people ‘not wanting to get their hands dirty’, and I do think that there is an element of our education system putting unrealistic aspirations into the minds of some of our students. It is not only impractical, but also costly to put them all through a university education. More than that, it is unnecessary. Our local colleges have an amazing amount to offer students, and we should encourage more colleges to offer more in the subject area of Woodworking. We have untapped talent in our students, some of them do not yet know it, and that is where industry and education MUST join in a partnership.
In 2000 I visited a senior tutor at Chichester College’s furniture department. I noticed several large signs from a competitor of ours, this company sponsored the woodwork department. It gave me the idea needed to start a long lasting relationship with the furniture department of Chichester College. Since 2000 we have been sponsoring the furniture department with materials. We regularly host visits at our Sawmills from Chichester college students, together with visits from other colleges and training establishments in the South, where we explain what is involved in taking a tree and converting it into a useable piece of timber, and all of the problems along the process. We explain what they should be looking for and considering when they buy timber. We feel that this relationship is an important part of the future of the Timber Industry as a whole. How else can we encourage potential stars to join one of the oldest industries in the world. It is important that our nations education system takes a different view on young people’s potential, they can’t all become .com millionaires, indeed a minuscule number of people worldwide ever achieve this level of financial success.
Along the timeline of our partnership with Chichester College, we started an additional sponsorship of a prize in the colleges annual prize giving for the construction department. So about 7 or 8 years ago the first W L West & Sons Ltd Best Furniture Newcomers prize was awarded. Over the years some of the students that have won this award have gone on to represent their college and country in the World Skills competition at a very high level. Now that truly is an accolade both for the students and the furniture department. Along the years they have had some extremely talented and dedicated tutors.
Just recently I again visited their end of year furniture show, they didn’t disappoint. Again the standard being produced in all of the years is amazing , not only in the quality of finish, but in the ideas. Where do they get the ideas from? Simply amazing. Every year the furniture department ‘raises the bar’ to use an Olympic term. Recently the college finished In the top 10 of colleges nationally. This can only be as a result of top class tutors and visionary management. Congratulations to Chichester College, long may it continue.