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BWA – Challenging times met with new online connectivity

In recent weeks, we have all seen the rapid and devastating effects of the COVID-19 virus and its impact on the lives of everyone around the world and businesses alike.  Every week, information is changing and evolving, and companies are left grappling with how to cope with this new environment.

Zoom Screen

Figure 1. Some of the 50 + attendees on BWA’s online discussions with wood manufacturers, suppliers, industry experts & provincial government stakeholders. 

Recently the BWA has been ramping up services to provide a transformed digital landscape for wood manufacturers, suppliers, industry experts, and government stakeholders to come together to discuss, network, and help answer questions we are all sharing. Over 50 individuals attended the March 31st online roundtable discussion, so the BWA quickly responded with a follow-up event on Monday, April 6th.Figure 2. Lucian Mihet, Export Development Canada (Above) discussing Financial Relief resources

Figure 2. Lucian Mihet, Export Development Canada (Above) discussing Financial Relief resources

April 6th’s online discussion brought forth information on Financial Relief and Health & Safety from Export Development Canada (EDC) and Industrial Safety Trainers (IST).  For the first time in its 75-year history, EDC has domestic powers to support businesses that are not exporters financially.

Senior Account Manager, Lucian Mihet of EDC was online with the BWA to discuss a variety of financial resources now available to assist businesses and answer essential questions manufacturers are left wondering amidst the health crisis.

Also joining the discussion was President of Industrial Safety Trainers, Randy Dignard, who presented on how workplace regulations stand up to the Emergency Response Act.  Many manufacturers are asking what constitutes essential businesses, how they can keep their workers safe, and what they can do in their companies to create a safe environment.

Figure 3. Randy Dignard, Industrial Safety Trainers (Above) discussing the topic of Health & Safety surrounding COVID-19

Figure 3. Randy Dignard, Industrial Safety Trainers (Above) discussing the topic of Health & Safety surrounding COVID-19

Already as this article is being written, the BWA is preparing for another online discussion. This time it will include Employment and Labour Lawyers to discuss and answer questions surrounding the health crisis and your business.

Additionally, the BWA has now launched an online discussion platform where members can now privately share resources, connect to discuss, and network in an environment that sets itself apart from the nuisance of social media platforms.  Members were given a video introduction to the platform, and many are already quickly signing up.

Figure 4. Screen capture of BWA's new online discussion platform for its members

Figure 4. Screen capture of BWA’s new online discussion platform for its members

All video discussions and information from these online events are now available to be watched again on the BWA’s new online discussion network and our members’ login page on www.bluewaterwoodalliance.com

The BWA will continue to bring forward discussion opportunities via video conferences and include experts to help companies get answers to pressing questions they have for their businesses. Check back on our website for up to date information on the next event and reach out to us with your questions. If you are a member of the BWA, make sure you join our new online community! Contact us directly, and we will send you the link to join.

Mike Baker
Executive Director

Bluewater Wood Alliance
e: [email protected]
p: 226-668-5455

Ryan Tabone
Program Coordinator/Advisor

Bluewater Wood Alliance
e: [email protected]
p: 226-808-7585

Tara Davey
Program Administrator 

Bluewater Wood Alliance
e: [email protected] 
p: 519-270-7141

There is strength in numbers.


Bluewater Wins National Human Resources Award for WoodLINKS support.

The Bluewater Wood Alliance was presented with a special award at the Wood Manufacturing Council Annual Awards banquet on October 3 in Ottawa.

Ottawa, October 3, 2012 – The Wood Manufacturing Council annually gives awards to recognize exemplary activities in the area of human resources development.  This year, one of the awards was given to the Bluewater Wood Alliance in recognition of the work done to promote the establishment of the WoodLINKS program in two high schools in the Bluewater District School Board.

WoodLINKS is a two-year program that teaches the fundamentals of industrial woodworking to students who are interested in pursuing a career in the wood products manufacturing industry.  It is currently being taught at the BDSB high schools in Chesley and Kincardine.  The student, pictured above, is Devon Patterson from New Brunswick.  He designed the award as part of his WoodLINKS program and was flown to Ottawa with his mother to participate in the awards ceremony.

The award was presented to Laurelyn Nielsen, who is the human resources manager at B&G Furniture, representing the BWA. What follows is the transcript of the presentation:

During the internal discussions of the Bluewater Wood Alliance as to what challenges the member firms were facing and how they could work collectively to the benefit of all, the need to secure high quality entry level workers or their businesses was a consistent issue for the BWA members.  They created a plan to address this issue and felt WOODLINKS was their vehicle to secure the needed employees

WMC Chair Gary Williams presents the award to Laurelyn Nielsen

However, an obstacle was continuously raised in the face of their efforts.  BWA is in the Grey Bruce area and the Ontario Government’s Bruce Nuclear plant is also in that region.  This is a large facility that employs a significant number of people and is able to pay very good wages.  Some dismissed the wood group as being “not of interest” to the youth, “the only good jobs are in the Bruce plant” and they said that the wood business would be unable to compete.  Still, BWA soldiered on.

Within the BWA there was significant current and historical knowledge of the WOODLINKS program and an understanding of how it could contribute. Representatives of BWA worked hard to arrange to meet with officials of the Bluewater School District, on multiple occasions, to introduce the program, identify the key learning outcomes and previous WOODLINKS success in Ontario and beyond, and to demonstrate the group’s interest and support.

Once that hurdle was crossed and the School District had agreed to consider the program, the BWA pooled resources and organized a “Teachers Day”, which included a formal presentation and discussion on the WOODLINKS program but also allowed the teachers to tour several manufacturing facilities, where they were able to see both the technology and design aspect of the sector, to see machinery run, to see solid wood, veneers and panel products being processed and to see both semi-custom and unique specialty products being created in the shops.   Teachers got to ask their questions of the company owners and their employees, to learn first-hand of the skill requirements and of the job opportunities, to touch raw materials, finished products, components etc.  The BWA  offered to pay the registration fees for the initial schools participating, and they offered these schools their off-cuts, used machinery, plant tours, guest speakers, and both summer and eventual permanent job opportunities.

Two area schools are now running the program and discussions are starting, through the local Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program rep, to introduce the program to the Catholic School Board.

There likely has never been such a collective effort by an industry group to secure the WOODLINKS program in a given area and WMC supported the effort by emphasizing to the local education community area that this was an unprecedented display of support from an industry organization and a golden opportunity for their students.

There was a need, and collectively the BWA decided to do something about it – bring WOODLINKS to town.