American Strong: Job Growth in the Wood Products Industry

One of the biggest questions on everyone’s minds in the lumber industry is “How will job growth affect the timber industry in upcoming years?”

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In a short answer, things are looking good. We spoke with John Underwood, Southern Oregon Human Resources Manager at Timber Products Company, to get his insights into how jobs in the timber industry are changing.

One of the contributing factors has been technology. While the timber industry is still in the process of adopting new technologies, more and more areas of the lumber industry are embracing technology to improve their businesses.

“Our industry is definitely gearing up. We’re getting the technology we need to compete on a world scale,” said Underwood. While some worry new technologies will displace workers, when Timber Products launched their new dryer in early 2016, they found it actually created new positions within the company.

“The technology we implemented with this dryer did displace positions, but those people were absorbed back into our operations,” said Underwood. “So, on the whole, if you’re staying current with your technology, that also allows you to grow your business. I think technology does displace some labor but at the same time adds labor in a different way.”

Another positive shift that is contributing to new jobs in the timber industry is an increased awareness within the school system. “There are great jobs in manufacturing, but kids don’t even know about it. I think we’re starting to see a shift in that mentality across the nation,” said Underwood. “Schools are starting to implement more technical vocational training, they’re starting to focus on career paths that focus on all kinds of vocations, which includes manufacturing and production work.”

The timber industry is not without its challenges. In particular, competing with less expensive Chinese imports. “When you’re competing with a nation state the size of China who subsidizes their industries… you’re at a very distinct disadvantage in a competitive way,” said Underwood.

But while Chinese imports can make it a challenge for American companies to stay competitive, there will always be a healthy market for green companies committing to making a difference in the world. “You don’t get an industry that is any greener than wood products. I’m not kidding when I say that!” exclaimed Underwood. “In what other industry can you grow trees in a sustainable way, uses over 98% of every tree that’s cut, then make them into products that we use every day of our lives?”

The wood products industry is not showing any signs of slowing down. Interested in joining us? Get in touch. “We’re always looking,” said Underwood.

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