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Timber Processing and Products

Overview

This page provides information and data on the Timber Processing and Products sector, which is a component of the Forest and Wood Products industry.

The Timber Processing and Products sector comprises four sub-sectors:

  • Sawmilling and Processing
  • Timber Manufactured Products
  • Wood Panel and Board Production
  • Timber Merchandising.

The Sawmilling and Processing sub-sector includes primary processing activities that transform logs from trees into a range of products using sawing, peeling and chipping processes.

The Timber Manufactured Products sub-sector sources timber from sawmills and other upstream timber processing enterprises to manufacture wooden structural components/systems and other timber products, including pre-fabricated timber building systems for the construction market.

The Wood Panel and Board Production sub-sector incorporates all enterprises that manufacture wood panel from wood chips, sawdust, wood shavings, slabwood or off-cuts. The sub-sector also includes the manufacture of products from logs or sawn timber, such as laminations of timber (Glulam and I-Beam) from veneer and sawn timber.

The Timber Merchandising sub-sector operates via two major channels:

  • Retail and trade merchants selling and providing advice to the public, DIY market, and builders
  • Wholesalers, manufacturers, importers and exporters selling, importing and/or exporting large volumes of hardwood and softwood products and distributing them through the merchant sector or directly to the building industry.

Vocational education and training (VET) is required in the Timber Processing and Products sector in occupations such as:

  • Carpenters and Joiners
  • Paper and Wood Processing Machine Operators
  • Timber and Wood Process Workers
  • Wood Machinists and Other Wood Trades Workers.

Nationally recognised training for the Timber Processing and Products sector is delivered under the FWP – Forest and Wood Products Training Package.

For information on the Forestry and Pulp and Paper Manufacturing sectors please visit the respective pages.

Information sourced from the Forest and Wood Products IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast and the Forest and Wood Products IRC’s 2020 Skills Forecast.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

IRC and skills forecasts

IRCs now submit comprehensive Skills Forecasts to the AISC every 3 years, with abridged annual updates submitted in the intervening 2 years.

Employment trends

Please note: any employment projections outlined below were calculated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics prior to COVID-19.

Employment snapshot

The Log Sawmilling and Timber Dressing, Other Wood Product Manufacturing, and Timber and Hardware Goods Wholesaling industry sectors have all seen an overall fall in employment levels between 2000 and 2020, with Log Sawmilling and Timber Dressing experiencing the biggest decline. Employment levels between 2020 and 2024 are predicted to increase significantly for Other Wood Product Manufacturing, increase moderately for Timber and Hardware Goods Wholesaling, and decline further for Log Sawmilling and Timber Dressing.

The occupations of Paper and Wood Processing Machine Operators and Timber and Wood Process Workers make up over 40% of the Log Sawmilling and Timber Dressing industry sector workforce. The employment level for Timber and Wood Process Workers is projected to decline significantly over the next five years until 2024.

Cabinetmakers make up nearly a quarter of the Other Wood Product Manufacturing workforce with Carpenters and Joiners making up a further 9%. Employment levels for Carpenters and Joiners are projected to increase over the next five years until 2024, however employment levels for Cabinetmakers are predicted to remain relatively stable over the same period.

Sales Assistants (General) account for almost 18% of the Timber and Hardware Goods Wholesaling workforce, with employment levels expected to increase by about 5% to 2024. Although Storepersons account for just less than 7% of this workforce, this occupation has the greatest predicted growth in employment levels over the next five years of around 13%.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Program enrolments in Timber Processing and Products-related qualifications have decreased overall from the peak of almost 840 in 2016 to roughly 570 in 2019. After remaining fairly steady between 2015 and 2016, then dropping to just over 100 in 2017, program completions more than doubled in 2018 to approximately 240 and held steady in 2019 at roughly 230.

The majority of enrolments in 2019 were at the certificate III or certificate II level in Sawmilling and Processing (33%) and Timber Merchandising (18%) qualifications. For those enrolled in Sawmilling and Processing qualifications the intended occupations were Sawmilling Operator or Sawmill or Timber Yard Worker. Timber Merchandising qualifications had an intended occupation of Sales Assistant (General) or Sales Representative (Building and Plumbing Supplies).

The majority of training in Timber Processing and Products-related qualifications in 2019 was delivered by private training providers (88%), with enterprise providers accounting for a further 8%. More than three-quarters of all subjects were Commonwealth and state funded (76%) and 24% were funded by domestic fee for service. Most students were located in Victoria (31%), Queensland (29%) and New South Wales (14%).

Training was primarily delivered in Victoria (42%), Queensland (23%) and New South Wales (13%).

Commencements in apprenticeships and traineeships declined from around 620 in 2010 to roughly 120 in 2019. Commencement numbers declined significantly between 2010 and 2013, then have continued to decline gradually to 2019. Completion numbers rose between 2010 and 2012 but have fallen steadily between 2012 and 2018. In 2019, completions rose to almost 110. The training had a variety of intended occupations depending on the qualification being studied, with the most common being Wood Machinist and Saw Doctor. In 2019, around one third (32%) of apprentices and trainees in training were reported in Victoria, followed by 28% in Queensland and 24% in New South Wales.

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, visit NCVER’s VET students by industry. If you are prompted to log in, select cancel and you will continue to be directed to the program.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

The following generic skills were identified as top priority for the industry:

  • Technology
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) (Foundation skills)
  • Design mindset/Thinking critically/System thinking/Solving problems
  • Communication/Virtual collaboration/Social intelligence.

A range of top priority industry and occupation skills were identified, including:

  • Information and communication technology skills
  • Middle management skills
  • High level financial skills
  • Specialised skills.

In addition, the below priority industry and occupation specialist skills have been highlighted in the Forest and Wood Products IRC’s 2018 Skills Forecast as specific for the Timber Processing workforce in the next three to five years:

  • Advances in woodmachining and sawdoctoring
  • Sawmill timber and process optimisation
  • Timber product development and supply chain innovation
  • Bioenergy, co-generation and biochar.

The top priority specialist skills for the Timber Building Solutions workforce include timber truss and frame estimating and design and advanced sales, marketing and customer service skills.

The advances in woodmachining and sawdoctoring covers skill requirements to assist with the current expectations of wood machinists and sawdoctors due to technology changes and businesses operating in the competitive manufacturing environment.

The sawmill timber and process optimisation priority covers skill requirements to support productivity and technological developments in the timber sawmilling sector, including:

  • The ability to apply timber sawmilling principles, practices and processes that demonstrate improvement in resource efficiency and productivity
  • The ability to efficiently operate timber optimisation scanners (including X-ray, CT and 3D laser scanning) and software for log grading and sawing pattern optimisation
  • Knowledge about the fundamentals of mechanical and computing systems related to timber optimisation equipment and ability to undertake maintenance for this equipment.

The timber product development and supply chain priority covers skills requirements to support capabilities for product development in timber processing and improve performance in the product supply chain operations.

The bioenergy, co-generation and biochar priority covers skills requirements to support emerging bioenergy and biofuel developments based on forest biomass and other agricultural plant residues.

The timber truss and frame estimating and design priority includes skills requirements to assist with the high demand of estimating and design capabilities in the timber truss and frame industry. Skill needs include improved understanding of house construction to enable estimators/detailers to design and calculate quantities of timber for fabrication orders.

The advanced sales, marketing and customer service skills priority covers skills requirements to support implementation and ongoing management of online portals and systems for improved sales, marketing and customer service in the Timber Manufacturing industry.

The Forest and Wood Products IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast details a variety of challenges and opportunities faced by the industry as a whole, including the following related to the Timber Processing and Product sector:

  • Domestic market – Investment in the softwood processing sector may be limited by uncertainties surrounding the future supply of forest resources, and if the log supply to emerging economies, such as China, continues, the amount of sawlog supply for domestic wood processors will diminish. Reducing log supply as a result of native forests being transitioned to forest reserves increasingly challenges the hardwood sawmilling and upstream hardwood manufacturing sectors.
  • Products with emerging markets – Growth in the demand for solid engineered wood products such as Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), Glulam and bioenergy products like biogas and wood pellets highlight opportunities for investment, innovation and entrepreneurship within the sector. Concerns around the availability of future log supply and impacts on local markets have been raised with regards to the growth of solid engineered wood products, while policy development is needed to enable wood residue from existing wood processing operations to be available to the energy sector and biochemical production.
  • Timber knowledge and expectations in the retail sector – The continual growth and expansion of timber and timber related products requires merchandising staff to maintain current product knowledge over a range of platforms. Further, customer behaviour and expectations have highlighted the need to increase the speed of service delivery while also transitioning to digital customer service capabilities and upskill in digital marketing across timber retailing and the supply chain.
  • Digitisation – Forestry and wood product companies have fallen behind many other industries in taking advantage of digital technologies, strong leadership and the development of digital skills and capabilities within an organisation are required to evolve existing operations into new business models.

The focus on new products and emerging markets brings about the growing demand for workers in specialised roles. As outlined in the Forest and Wood Products IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast the key occupations in demand include specialist engineers, scientists and mechanics, and mobile and fixed-plant operators.

The Forest and Wood Products IRC's 2020 Skills Forecast highlights key issues affecting the sector:

  • Climate change is driving a push for less carbon intensive construction methods and novel uses of biomass for energy and other purposes
  • Bushfires and the increased risk of bushfires
  • Ensuring workplaces are as safe as possible, particularly in remote areas
  • The ongoing challenge of accessing training in thin, regionally dispersed, markets
  • Employers throughout the country continue to be concerned about the need for career pathways into and within the industry.

The impact of the 2019–20 bushfire season on native and plantation timbers was far greater than anticipated and will have a significant impact on the industry now and into the future, particularly in New South Wales, Victoria and on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. Maximising salvage operations was a priority in the immediate aftermath of the fires and sawmills put on extra shifts to process salvaged wood.

The use of robotics is increasing for materials handling, processing and surfacing. Investments in research and technology show the pipeline of future skills needs. The acquisition of these skills across the workforce has begun and will gradually transform the way work is performed in the sector.

The report Effects of Bushfires and COVID-19 on the Forestry and Wood Processing Sectors, highlights that residential construction is the single largest user of softwood sawnwood products in Australia, and accounts for a significant proportion of the demand for wood-based panel products. Sawnwood is also used in home renovations, landscaping and furniture manufacturing. Wood-based panels are also used in renovations. If residential dwelling commencements decline as forecast, demand for sawnwood and wood-based panels for interior use will also decline. In June 2020, the Federal Government introduced the HomeBuilder incentive scheme which provides eligible owner-occupiers (including first home buyers) with a grant of $25,000 to build a new home or substantially renovate an existing home. HomeBuilder will assist the residential construction market by encouraging the commencement of new home builds and renovations in 2020 and this scheme will also benefit the Timber Processing and Products sector by stimulating demand for wood products.

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry-relevant research, organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

Relevant research

Australian Forest and Wood Products Statistics – Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES)

Bushfire Recovery Harvesting Operations: Position Paper – Institute of Foresters of Australia and Australian Forest Growers (IFA/AFG)

Effects of Bushfires and COVID-19 on the Forestry and Wood Processing Sectors – Linden Whittle for Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES)

Growing a Better Australia: A Billion Trees for Jobs and Growth – Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

Industry Action Agenda 2019 – The Green Triangle Forest Industries Hub

Northern Forestry and Forest Products Industry Situational Analysis – Michael Stephens, Tim Woods, Clarissa Brandt, Mila Bristow and Mark Annandale for Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA)

The Djarlma Plan (WA Forestry Industry Development Plan) – Forest Products Commission Western Australia

The Value of Being 'Essential' – IndustryEdge

Upscaling the Australian Softwood Sawmill Industry: Feasibility and Implications for Future Plantation Investment – Linden Whittle and Rhys Downham for Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES)

Victorian Forestry Plan – Victorian Government

Wood Encouragement Policy for Western Australia – Forest Products Commission Western Australia

 

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB)

Australian Cabinet and Furniture Association (ACFA)

Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA)

Australian Glass and Window Association (AGWA)

Australian Pulp and Paper Technical Association (APPITA)

Australian Shop and Office Fitting Industry Association Ltd (ASOFIA)

Australian Timber Importers Federation Inc (ATIF)

Australian Timber Trainers Association (ATTA)

Australian Woodworking Industry Suppliers Association Ltd (AWISA)

Cabinet Makers Association of Western Australia (CMAWA)

Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia (EWPAA)

Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA)

Forest Industries Association of Tasmania (FIAT)

Forest Industries Federation (WA) Inc (FIFWA)

Forest Industry Council (Southern NSW) Inc (FIC)

Forest Research Mount Gambier (University of South Australia)

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Australia

ForestWorks

Frame and Truss Manufacturers Association of Australia (FTMA)

Furniture Cabinets Joinery Alliance (FCJA)

Glued Laminated Timber Association of Australia (GLTAA)

Institute of Foresters of Australia (IFA)

Master Builders Association of Victoria (MBAV)

MGA TMA (Timber Merchants Australia)

Picture Framers Guild of Australia Inc (PFGA)

Responsible Wood (formerly known as Australian Forestry Standard Ltd)

Tasmanian Forest Contractors Association (TFCA)

Tasmanian Forests and Forest Products Network

Tasmanian Sawmillers Association (TSA)

Timber and Building Materials Association (TABMA) Australia

Timber Communities Australia (TCA)

Timber Development Association of New South Wales (TDA)

Timber NSW Ltd

Timber Preservers Association of Australia (TPAA)

Timber Queensland Ltd

Timber Trade Industrial Association (TTIA)

Timber Veneer Association of Australia (TVAA)

Victorian Association of Forest Industries Inc (VAFI)

WoodSolutions

 

Government bodies

National Timber Councils Association (NTCA)

Timber Towns Victoria

 

Employee associations

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU)

Australian Workers’ Union (AWU)

Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU, though commonly still referred to as CFMEU)

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2020, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, employment projections to May 2024
    • 141 Log Sawmilling and Timber Dressing
    • 149 Other Wood Product Manufacturing
    • 333 Timber and Hardware Goods Wholesaling
  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2024
    • 7113 Paper and Wood Processing Machine Operators
    • 8394 Timber and Wood Process Workers
    • 3232 Metal Fitters and Machinists
    • 3941 Cabinetmakers
    • 3312 Carpenters and Joiners
    • 3942 Wood Machinists and Other Wood Trades Workers
    • 7113 Paper and Wood Processing Machine Operators
    • 6211 Sales Assistants (General)
    • 6113 Sales Representatives
    • 7411 Storepersons
    • 7331 Truck Drivers.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2020, Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, November 1984 onwards, 6291.0.55.003 - EQ06, viewed 1 August 2020 https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/6291.0.55.003May%202020?OpenDocument

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, 2000 to 2020, May Quarter
    • 141 Log Sawmilling and Timber Dressing
    • 149 Other Wood Product Manufacturing
    • 333 Timber and Hardware Goods Wholesaling.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census – employment, income and unpaid work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

  • Employment level by 3 digit industry and 4 digit level occupations to identify the relevant VET-related occupations in the industry as a proportion of the total workforce
    • 141 Log Sawmilling and Timber Dressing
    • 149 Other Wood Product Manufacturing
    • 333 Timber and Hardware Goods Wholesaling.

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider CollectionTotal VET Students and Courses from the following training package or qualifications:

  • FWP Forest and Wood Products Training Package
  • Certificate II & III in Sawmilling and Processing
    • FPI20305 - Certificate II in Sawmilling and Processing
    • FPI20311 - Certificate II in Sawmilling and Processing
    • FWP20316 - Certificate II in Sawmilling and Processing
    • FPI30305 - Certificate III in Sawmilling and Processing
    • FPI30311 - Certificate III in Sawmilling and Processing
    • FWP30316 - Certificate III in Sawmilling and Processing
  • Certificate II and III in Timber Truss and Frame Design and Manufacture
    • FWP20716 - Certificate II in Timber Truss and Frame Design and Manufacture
    • FPI30910 - Certificate III in Timber Truss and Frame Design and Manufacture
    • FPI30911 - Certificate III in Timber Truss and Frame Design and Manufacture
    • FWP30916 - Certificate III in Timber Truss and Frame Design and Manufacture
  • Certificate III in Sawdoctoring
    • FPI30705 - Certificate III in Sawdoctoring
    • FPI30711 - Certificate III in Sawdoctoring
    • FWP30716 - Certificate III in Sawdoctoring
  • Certificate III in Woodmachining
    • FPI30805 - Certificate III in Woodmachining
    • FPI30811 - Certificate III in Woodmachining
    • FWP30816 - Certificate III in Woodmachining
  • Certificate IV in Timber Processing
    • FPI40205 - Certificate IV in Timber Processing
    • FPI40211 - Certificate IV in Timber Processing
    • FWP40216 - Certificate IV in Timber Processing
  • Certificate IV in Timber Truss and Frame Design/Manufacture
    • FPI40410 - Certificate IV in Timber Truss and Frame Design
    • FPI40411 - Certificate IV in Timber Truss and Frame Design
    • FWP40416 - Certificate IV in Timber Truss and Frame Design
    • FPI40310 - Certificate IV in Timber Truss and Frame Manufacture
    • FPI40311 - Certificate IV in Timber Truss and Frame Manufacture
    • FWP40316 - Certificate IV in Timber Truss and Frame Manufacture
  • Diploma of Forest and Forest Products
    • FPI50105 - Diploma of Forest and Forest Products
    • FPI50111 - Diploma of Forest and Forest Products
    • FWP50116 - Diploma of Forest and Forest Products
    • FPI50199 - Diploma of Forest & Forest Products (Forest Growing & Management)
    • FPI50299 - Diploma of Forest & Forest Products (Wood Panel Products)
  • Diploma of Timber Truss and Frame Design
    • FPI50410 - Diploma of Timber Truss and Frame Design
  • Timber Manufactured Products (Certificate II & III)
    • FPI20511 - Certificate II in Timber Manufactured Products
    • FWP20516 - Certificate II in Timber Manufactured Products
    • FPI30505 - Certificate III in Timber Manufactured Products
    • FPI30511 - Certificate III in Timber Manufactured Products
    • FWP30516 - Certificate III in Timber Manufactured Products
  • Timber Merchandising (Certificate II & III)
    • FPI20605 - Certificate II in Timber Merchandising
    • FPI20611 - Certificate II in Timber Merchandising
    • FWP20616 - Certificate II in Timber Merchandising
    • FPI30605 - Certificate III in Timber Merchandising
    • FPI30611 - Certificate III in Timber Merchandising
    • FWP30616 - Certificate III in Timber Merchandising.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2015 to 2019 program enrolments
  • 2015 to 2019 subject enrolments
  • 2015 to 2019 program completions.

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document.

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

FWP Forest and Wood Products Training Package apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, including:

  • 2010 to 2019 commencements
  • 2010 to 2019 completions
  • 2019 apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2019 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.

Priority skills data have been extracted from the Forest and Wood Products IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast.

Updated: 05 Nov 2020
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