Apprentices from the UK’s leading timber manufacturer, BSW Timber, were finalists in the national Fuel Change competition, which encourages businesses to tackle industry challenges and work towards a low carbon economy.

Six of BSW’s engineering apprentices, from their Fort William sawmill in Scotland, were among over 220 apprentices from various businesses taking part. The BSW team made it to the final showcase which took place on 3rd March with nine other teams, and had the opportunity to showcase their skills and ideas to tackle Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with global relevance.

The Fuel Change competition – which began in July 2020 – saw apprentices presented with six challenges that were unique to six participating businesses.

The six businesses, all top organisations in Scotland, were Alexander Dennis Limited, BAM Nuttall, Scottish Power Energy Networks, National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS), Technip FMC and Spirit Aerosystems.

The challenge was for apprentice teams to find greener solutions in the areas of ground transportation, aviation, oil and gas, manufacturing, energy, and construction. The tasks were completed within three ‘sprints’ across the year and sought to tackle the pressing environmental issues within these areas.

The prize for every successful entry brought the commitment of a relevant partner organisation to take their solution and implement it.

The BSW apprentices taking part included their Practical Sawmill Improvements Team, which consisted of Shaun McLeod, Dylan Scott and Duncan Stevenson,  along with members of the mill’s Green Initiative Team; Liam Gillanders, Ryan Henderson and Ryan Boyle.

BSW’s Engineering Manager, Ewen Smith; Group Learning and Development Manager, Tony Lockey; and Carbon Expert James Napier acted as mentors to the team.

The BSW team focused on construction and based their presentation on both the BSW business opportunities and on working with the local community in Fort William to improve their carbon footprint and life for those in the area. The work highlighted potential annual savings of £400k a year for the Fort William Mill, with the added opportunity to cut carbon emissions by thousands of tonnes per year.

The project also successfully highlighted that by implementing the plan across BSW’s other UK sites, the business would be much closer to becoming a carbon net zero business.

Tony Lockey said:
“This competition is about giving our young and talented individuals the opportunity to collaborate and innovate, to face up to true and genuine challenges facing industry – especially where we specifically look to address the drive towards a low carbon economy.

“[Timber Mill Manager] Oliver Stephen backed the project 100% and worked also with the BSW team and the local Chamber of Commerce in promoting the activities. His help and positivity towards this event were invaluable.”

Some of the concepts developed by the group are already underway, with electric side loader testing beginning in March 2021. This event has now become an annual occurrence, and it is hoped that BSW will continue to enter each year and build a library of concepts and ideas that will help them to become a carbon net zero timber business.

The team from Fort William may also get the opportunity to attend COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021 to see other ideas and to showcase their work.

Tony added:

“The lads did an amazing job; their ideas and enthusiasm were an inspiration. They also developed their presentation skills and confidence by talking to the judges from the event, and built solid communication skills. We should be very proud of their efforts and the way they came through as a winning team.”

David Reid, Chief Executive of Fuel Change, said:

“This is an amazing story as it is our first tangible breakthrough moment because of Fuel Change. The team from BSW are everything we had hoped for from the programme – innovative, collaborative and committed – all delivered with Scottish gallus. We cannot thank BSW enough for their continued backing of the programme and we look forward to supporting them further in realising their wider net zero plans, not just for their business but for all of Fort William. I know this is small – but it is momentous. We have triggered change – the next generation have fuelled it.”