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Presentation by Simone Kochhafen

Welcome to the LEADER + project „The Future of Timber Construction“ presentation. My name is Simone Kochhafen and I run the project and represent the wood workers guild in Vorarlberg. The „Future of Timber Construction“ project was developed working closely together with the member businesses. We formed our own work group where the contractors themselves were represented. We, these are the the guild of wood processors with 110 SME as members and with 900 employee in Vorarlberg. As you can see that this are less than 9 employees per company, therefore really small companies.

The Vorarlberg Timber Construction follows two basic strategies.  The first strategy is; stimulating innovation in the branch through creative competitions, and the second strategy is; reaching a higher level of wood processing through qualification.

The LEADER *+  „Future of Timber Construction“ project is very popular with the younger generation.  We started by developing and initiating a common training programme for our youths across business boundaries.  Now that sounds easy, and you might ask what is so special about it:

1)    Co-operation between the SME‘s in the education of employees:

The wood processing branch in our region is made up of small businesses with between 5 and 40 employees.  These businesses just can‘t afford their own training facilities and specialised instructors like big businesses can.  So if we want to reach a higher level of education, we have to work together.  After many discussions in the project group meetings, the businesses were able to agree upon a common programme and then develop it.

2)    The attractiveness of small business for young workers:

Are small businesses lucrative for youths and their choice of career?  No, unfortunately not.  It is a lot harder for small businesses to keep good workers.  It was absolutely necessary to create a new image and to tread new paths.  The common training programme and the industry wide co-operation made it possible to create a new, and much better image during the past four years.  We were able to raise the new generation of wood workers to a high level and attract youths to this trade.  During the past 5 years we have been able to raise employment in the entire branch by 13% by using the two strategies mentioned at the beginning.  We are very happy about this trend.

3)    Increasing social competence:

Competition is getting harder and harder and the SME‘s have to assert themselves professionally.  This is why qualified managers are needed and it isn‘t enough anymore when the boss alone is well received with the customers.  Everyone has to be able to face the customer.  Managerial tasks have to be taken over, construction sites have to be managed professionally, and we have to co-operate closely with other craftsmen.   And that has to be learned.  That is why the training programme isn‘t just made up of technical components; they can be learned in trade school.  The development of personality and social competence are very important concerns in the seminars.

4) Training programm

In the framework of the LEADER project, training programmes were developed which are not usually found in standard vocational training.  Company-wide training camps were arranged and youths from all of the companies spent a few weeks together.  The youths were given theoretical as well as practical lessons, worked together in one plant and spent their free time with each other.  They erected buildings for social purposes and carried out useful activities.

Organising the training camp was a challenge but that it was a wonderful experience for us.  The nice thing about it was that suddenly you felt, and were convinced, that these youths would be in the position to take over the small and medium sized businesses one day.  They will nurture, develop and carry their craft into the future.  We are convinced that the training programme is an important contribution to the cultivation and further development of the culture of handicrafts and will increase regional strengths.

Apart from the youth training programme, the project also dealt with the further education of the journeymen and master craftsmen.  By relaying knowledge, the branch wants to improve its now good reputation even more and guarantee that it stays that way in the future.

A very positive observation is the increasing and natural way, the companies are working together in the area of qualification.  Above all this, because of the project a few business co-operations were formed and the collaboration between businesses has improved generally.


In the meantime, you have received some information about the project from our young craftsmen.  This is a project description for the project contest.  The contest for the best project in the Alpine area with the title „Future in the Alps“ was posted by CIPRA in the whole Alpine region.  We are proud that we came out as the winning project.  


I would like to mention a few more general things as well as a couple of tangible numbers concerning the project.  The handicraft enterprises in Vorarlberg are small and very small businesses with a long history.  With the „Future in Timber Construction“ project we wanted to contribute to the conservation and further development of the handicraft culture, particularly because it turns out that these small businesses are a stable employment factor in Vorarlberg.

In the small state of Vorarlberg with its 300,000 inhabitants, there are 3,000 enterprises connected to the construction and related branches which employ a total of 14,000 people.  In the area of timber construction and architecture, the region has made a name for itself all over Europe.  During the past few years, the branch has been able to increase turnover by 50% and employment by 13%.  The LEADER „Future of Timber Construction“ project has helped improve co-operation between the businesses.  This gives us reason to have a relatively positive outlook toward the future, even though these points cannot be laid to rest because:

Whoever believes he is the best, has started to step backwards. We will be starting projects in the future that also contribute to the culture of team work.  Thank you for your attention.  If you have any questions, I will be glad to answer them.  I hope you have a successful day full of good experiences.

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