New centre defines industry's cutting edge

Canadians moved further from the status of hewers of wood when the national Centre for Advanced Wood Processing (CAWP) opened at UBC April 9. The centre is the result of a national industry initiative to add value to Canada's most important natural resource.

The first 10 graduates of the centre's Bachelor of Science in Wood Products Processing program, who are in very high demand in industry, were at the opening. So were representatives of Canada's wood products industry who banded together in 1992 to create an education system dedicated to filling a training void in Canada.

"Technology, environmental concerns and globalization have brought Canada's wood industry to a crossroads," says centre director Tom Maness. "Our future prosperity depends increasingly on knowledge, new technologies and a highly skilled workforce which is prepared to innovate on an international scale."

CAWP -- in UBC's new $47.5-million Forest Sciences Centre -- contains a state-of-the-art secondary manufacturing pilot plant and complete industry education centre. The opening was staged among the high-tech moulders, saws and computer-aided design and manufacturing labs housed in the unique educational centre in Canada.

Companies are clamouring to hire the first graduates who have the skills to become innovative managers as well as specialists in wood engineering and processing. The industry-driven program has a strong focus on internship -- the five-year undergraduate degree includes at least 19 months of carefully selected work experience.

"The centre's innovative, hands-on approach has been designed and is evolving to fill a strongly perceived need across the country," says John McLean, acting dean of Forestry at UBC. "Our graduates will not only play an important role in taking better advantage of Canada's wood supply, but will also utilize the business and marketing skills they have acquired to create new opportunities in the global marketplace."

CAWP provides workshops, seminars and training in advanced manufacturing to transfer the latest technology to industry. As well, it conducts industry-supported applied research projects and provides consulting services, technical support and customized training programs.

UBC was chosen as Canada's national education, research and service centre dedicated to the wood products manufacturing in 1994.

CAWP was created in 1996 by a joint partnership among the university, industry and senior levels of government and is guided by its industry advisory board, the National Education Initiative of the Furniture and Wood Products Manufacturing Industry.