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Hardwood lumber and training opportunities

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WMC by Richard Lipman
Richard Lipman is president of the Wood Manufacturing Council. For more info email
There is a good system to ensure that firms in the value added wood products business get properly graded hardwood lumber. And within that system, there will from time to time be opportunities for people in your companies to learn more about the rules for grading hardwood lumber. The National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA) offers a variety of options to train people about hardwood grades and to train people to be certified hardwood lumber inspectors.  
There are enough hardwood lumber graders in eastern Canada, but there are ‘few free agent,’ qualified people who are not already employed by hardwood producers. Young people are not necessarily seeking out this profession either. Hardwood lumber manufacturers are looking for more depth in the talent pool for the future. There was recently an effort to support the process of increasing the number of certified hardwood graders in Ontario. This past August, interested individuals and companies had the opportunity to participate in a unique, two-week intensive hardwood lumber grading short course in Ontario.  
The NHLA writes and oversees the grading rules 
for hardwood lumber. 
They note that inspectors are employed by hardwood sawmills, kiln operators, wholesalers and manufacturing plants (such as cabinet, moulding and millwork and furniture plants etc.)  Their Inspector Training School in Memphis, TN offers the only Hardwood Lumber Inspector Certificate Program in the world. They offer 10 and 12-week traditional training programs. The 12-week program is usually offered in the fall and spring in Memphis, while a 10-week program is offered in the summer. The traditional program is comprised of 408 contact hours, made up of both lecture and lab time. The NHLA Inspection Training School also welcomes international students.
In an attempt to further its educational outreach and accommodate the needs of all students, the NHLA created, for those training to become lumber graders, the “Online/Progressive Program”, which is divided into three blocks. Upon the successful completion of one block, a student can then proceed to the next. Block 1 normally requires two weeks of hands-on study at the NHLA School in Memphis. However, it was this block that was also recently offered at Canadore College in North Bay, Ont. to interested companies and their staff members.
NHLA sent in one of their US field inspectors to teach the course. This effort really represented a special chance to train in Canada and was done with the generous assistance of Quality Hardwoods Ltd. in Powassan, Ont. A total of 18 students took the North Bay course, and several of them immediately embarked on the next step of their training. Their employers saw interest from many of the participants and are encouraging their studies, so that there is more grading talent going forward. Future offerings of this two-week course might be of interest to the key employees in value-added manufacturing companies. The NHLA and the Canadian Hardwood Bureau (CHB) jointly offered the North Bay course.  
If Block 1 participants are successful and want to continue, they can proceed to Block 2.  This Block 2 of the Online/Progressive Program allows for up to 12 months of online work for memorization, study and testing of the required material. Block 2 can begin as soon as the student has completed Block 1. Block 3 requires an additional three weeks of classroom study. Students who successfully fulfill all program requirements will receive a certificate of completion. It should be noted that all applicants are strongly encouraged to sharpen mathematical skills prior to starting the classes, as proficiency in these skills is necessary for daily class activities. Block 3 corresponds with the last 3 weeks of the 12-week class. The Online Progressive Program Students receive the same Certificate of Completion as the 12-week 
class when they graduate.
NHLA has also made special arrangements in the province of Quebec.
They have teamed up with the Duchesnay Forestry School, which is now the only Francophone school in the world to be accredited by the NHLA to train people to become hardwood lumber graders. In their recruitment efforts, Duchesnay stresses that the position of hardwood lumber grader is one that is in demand in the province and that the technical competence of the grader is crucial to the success of a mill. The NHLA has developed material to encourage careers as lumber inspectors. They explain the occupation by saying that an inspector looks at a raw cut hardwood lumber board and assigns the board a grade, based on the standards established by the NHLA’s Rule for the Measurement and Inspection of Hardwood and Cypress. Once the grade is determined, the board can then be valued, distributed/sold and used by the proper manufacturing segment such as furniture, flooring and cabinetry. NHLA grades are decorative or appearance grades, not structural grades, like you see for softwood lumbers. Grading is done by category, by species and by color.  
NHLA also offers a three-day short course, which also includes theory and practical portions, working with boards in the mill yard. This instruction is geared towards production, sales and office personnel – not necessarily to those involved directly in lumber grading. The goal is to make people ‘rules conscious,’ not professional graders. The course covers basic introduction to hardwood lumber grading, basic rules descriptions, lumber characteristics, the lumber rule, standard grades and species exemptions, net/gross tally etc.  
This might be a good course for people in the value-added wood sector, who are dealing with hardwood lumber, in order to gain some valuable information in a short period of time. Notice of future courses will be forthcoming from NHLA and the CHB.

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