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The different characteristics and properties of wood and the application of science and technology has ensured that wood remains a valued resource, providing a wide range of products for many different end uses. Wood may be used in its solid form, or it may be remanufactured, for example, to provide engineered timber products. The construction sub-sector accounts for about 60% of the wood and wood products traded in the UK. Other major markets include furniture, fencing and packaging.

The wood sub-sector comprises 89,000 employees in around 10,000 companies. 83% of the companies are small employing less than 10 people. Companies employing 10 people or more employ an estimated 68% of the total wood workforce.

The wood sub-sector has experienced a sharp contraction in the recession with half of all businesses having contracted and seen the size of their workforce reduced. The sub-sector has faired worse than most industries in the sector. The outlook for the future is somewhat more positive, with most companies expecting business to expand or stay the same. Also the size of the workforce is likely to stabilize in comparison to the past 12 months.

Major issues facing companies include a lack of demand for products, energy costs and competition from within the UK. One in five companies report that there is a need to increase workforce skills.

The proportion of companies reporting vacancies has fallen to 5%, which is still higher than the sector average. Although numbers being recruited are relatively small, there are difficulties in finding people with the right skills.

Although Skill shortages are currently rare, skill gaps within the existing workforce are more common reported by 16% of companies. Skill gaps are concentrated in skilled trades, process operatives and elementary occupations.

Source: Proskills website 2010 and The 2009 Employer Survey – Wood