By S. J. Trotton
Like so many industries experiencing challenges with a growing number of vacancies due to the fact too many workers are retiring or planning to retire in the near future, many of British Columbia’s remaining saw filers know only too well what it’s like to feel shorthanded in the workplace.
“The challenge of not having enough skilled workers to replace your retirees is definitely becoming more apparent with each passing year,” says Matt Graves, secretary for the B.C. Saw Filers’ Association (BCSFA) and Tolko Industries Lavington Division saw filer veteran. “We were also talking about the same challenge last year and the year before that but still need to as the challenge just isn’t going away,” he added.
The BCSFA is an independent, grassroots organization which aims to encourage the wide-ranging dissemination of knowledge and resources for the benefit of all those involved in the saw filing trade. Its membership tends to consist of a progressive group of filers who “focus on education and cooperation,” says Graves. “That is probably why our annual conference and trade show continue to be predominantly education-focused.”
This year’s annual conference is planned for April 25 to 27 and will be held once again at the Coast Kamloops Hotel and Convention Centre, located in downtown Kamloops. The event will once again include an annual general meeting portion and will feature exhibitors such as Thompson Rivers University’s (TRU) Industrial Trades and Technology Centre located in Williams Lake as well as talks from some of their instructors. Graves says the hope is the conference can address the continuing skilled workers void some thought may be remedied by all of the advancements in innovative cutting-edge technologies.
The TRU campus in Williams Lake continues to be the only campus in Canada and the Western United States that offers technical training for the trade. At their campus, students can get hands-on training and as a result become certified in saw filing which is broken down into three industry trades: saw fitting, circular saw filer, and bench person. The forest industry continues to support the program, recognizing how much the industry needs skilled trade workers and particularly saw filers. In 2017 for example, the school received much-needed equipment donated by Canfor Corporation and HMT Machine Tools Canada.
“Without saw filers, sawmills simply can’t operate,” Graves points out.
Although the school helps tremendously with providing the certified training saw filers need and has produced more than 220 graduates since its start in 2013, Graves says it is only part of the solution.
“Filers need more than the years of schooling they can now access,” explains Graves. “To really be good at the job, they also need plenty of training on-the-job so that they can get to a level they need to be at.”
Currently, the association’s plans for their annual conference and trade show, which always attracts dozens of equipment manufacturers, are well underway. Graves says this year’s event may end up being the best attended yet as his fellow association members are planning a packed agenda for the three days registrants will be meeting.
That agenda will once again include dinner and entertainment for Friday night, says Graves, as well as additional recreational activities planned for the Saturday night. New this year will be the timing for the annual general meeting portion which will run Friday morning from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. as opposed to Saturday morning.
“Changing the AGM time was something we thought we would try this year and see how it goes,” explains Graves. “We are anticipating it will allow for more educational sessions on the Saturday.”
As in years past, attendees will be able to see and hear about everything from new filing and automation technology to best maintenance and safety practices during conference sessions and throughout the trade show.
The annual conference typically attracts approximately anywhere from 150 to 160 registrants and is considered to be the largest convention of its kind in North America, reports Graves.
“They come from all over Western Canada and even parts of the U.S. as the event is great for networking and learning not only what is the latest technology out there, but also what sort of best practices are being developed.”
Last year, the event’s trade show portion brought together dozens of exhibitors who featured the latest innovation in filing technology, and the best in tooling and saw-related products and services. Already confirmed for this year’s event are manufacturers known throughout the industry, says Graves.
To become a saw filer, the industry requires people have a minimum of a Grade 10 education that includes English, Math and Science. Those in training then get broken into three levels of saw filing certification. To complete Level 1 successfully, saw filer students must complete the courses as well as obtain 1,680 hours of work-based training. Upon completion of all Level 1 requirements which includes obtaining at least 70 per cent on the final exam, students can then move on to Level 2 training. When Level 2 is successfully completed, the apprentice is granted a certificate of qualification, a certificate of apprenticeship and becomes a journeyperson.
Those who choose to move on to Level 3 can transition from journeyperson status to bench person certified. Those who take this level of training become qualified for benching band saws which includes the lining up of head rigs and grinding of band wheels. Level 3 program training also requires 120 hours of in-school training, a mark of at least 70 per cent on the final exam and an additional 1,680 hours of work-based training.
In an effort to streamline registration for membership and to establish numbers for the dinner and show, the association is offering pre-registration.
Anyone wishing to pre-register for the conference is asked to email Graves at [email protected].
“And of course, when you pre-register, you don’t have to stand in line.”
He asks that when people make their pre-registration requests, they make sure to include their name, company, mailing address, email, number of dinner tickets required and whether or not they are active or retired.
“We will confirm your registration. Upon arrival at the show you may pick up and pay for your conference package and dinner tickets at the pre-registration desk.”
The event is open to all filers, mill managers and maintenance supervisors, as well as anyone interested in seeing the latest industry trends. For those who miss the cut-off date or can’t commit that far in advance, registration will once again be offered on site as well, says Graves.
To learn more about the annual conference, visit: www.bcsawfilers.com.
To learn more about saw filing careers, visit: http://www.itabc.ca/program/saw-filer.
To learn more about Thompson Rivers University’s saw filing training program, visit: https://www.tru.ca/trades/trades-programs/saw-filer.html.
On the Cover:
Saskatchewan’s Freedom Logging harvests about 283,000 cubic metres annually, primarily for the Tolko OSB plant near Meadow Lake, and the logging outfit has a long association with John Deere equipment, including Deere skidders, as the backbone of their logging fleet. Read all about the operation beginning on page 44 of this issue. (Cover photo by Tony Kryzanowski)
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Solid safety record on steep slopes
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BC Saw Filers’ Convention coming up
Logging and Sawmilling Journal previews the upcoming BC Saw Filers’ Convention, to be held in Kamloops, B.C. April 25 to 27, which promises to be a great exhibition of all the latest in technology, products and services in saw filing.
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Fitting all the pieces together ...
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Building the base…
Saskatchewan’s Freedom Logging started operations in the jaws of the economic downturn, and has gradually built its volume—and its equipment base—to the point that it now has more than triple the cut that it started with, in 2008.
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New Brunswick’s GL Wood Products has established a very unique market niche: producing lumber components for fish boxes for shipping smoked and salted fish to overseas markets.
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre and FPInnovations.