Step Out of the Office and Into the Forest: A Week in the Life of a Wood Basics Attendee

From the October issues of BPD and Merchant Magazines. 

Perfect for those new to the forest products industry, the NAWLA Wood Basics course immerses attendees into each aspect of the industry. The curriculum covers the entire life cycle of lumber, from seed to sale.

Industry experts and Wood Basics instructors Chris Knowles, PhD, Henry Quesada, PhD, and David Jones, PhD, guide the class through a week-long immersive training experience where attendees engage with one another, get hands-on experience, and participate in professional sales training. Whether you’re at Virginia Tech in the spring or Oregon State University in the fall, here’s what you can expect from your week at Wood Basics: Going back to our roots, quite literally, Monday morning kicks off with classroom sessions covering wood anatomy, forestry and harvesting. That is followed-up by an off-site tour of the nearby forestlands to see first-hand how the harvesting lifecycle impacts the lumber industry. The afternoon is spent back in the classroom discussing manufacturing, engineered woods, chain of custody and current industry trends with green building.

With an early start, the class spends all of day two touring two different lumber mills. These guided tours provide an up-close-and-personal look into the production of various types of products, including engineered wood. Almost always a Wood Basics favorite outing, experiencing mill operations, watching the wood transform, and understanding the many steps of production provides a great foundation of knowledge for up-and-coming traders. The education on Wednesday builds on the foundation that the class has learned the prior two days. Classroom topics on day three include logistics and transportation, market trends, forecasting, diversity and inclusion in the industry, and lumber grading. Throughout the day, attendees start to get a larger picture of the many parts of the lumber industry and how understanding each component is crucial to a successful supply chain. The afternoon includes a tour of the wood science lab to observe stress tests and the big structures lab. The class is tested on their grading during an interactive exercise, with help and coaching from the instructors, of course. The final day of Wood Basics is spent with sales guru and negotiation expert Scott Olsen. Through a series of lessons, games and role play, the class explores various negotiation strategies and how to use each one effectively. By the afternoon, the classroom is buzzing with attendees persuading one another and working on hypothetical deals. The evening concludes with a closing ceremony dinner and a toast to a productive week.

his course takes you from freshman to lumber professional in one week; there’s no other industry program that offers this level of education in a concise, thorough manner. Bus rides, dinner and session breaks provide ample time for attendees to network, share stories, forge connections, and ask questions. By the end of the week, the class has bonded and made life-long contacts, and sometimes even business deals!

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