The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association's (NLBMDA) newly formed Education Committee has set out on a mission to identify how the association can provide an education program to its membership that is cost effective, accessible, flexible, and certifiable. I am honored to have been selected chair of the committee, which has been supported through a loan by the Construction Suppliers Association and has adopted a vision to create an education and training curriculum where “outstanding people will seek careers in our industry because of the training we offer.”

NLBMDA chair Bill Stewart, president of Stewart Lumber in Dickson, Tenn., and president Shawn Conrad created the committee and have pledged support for the implementation of its initiatives. An initial meeting of NLBMDA's Education Committee on May 20, 2004, in Atlanta identified three primary “high-need” areas where the availability and use of industry-specific education and training could make a positive and immediate impact on dealers' bottom lines: sales, sales management, and customer service; materials handling management; and financial skills and leadership development.

Representing a broad cross section of companies and geography from across the country, the Education Committee's members (see below) are committed to providing solutions to the industry's education needs. We realize that finding the time, financing, and delivery methods for training at the dealer level is a real challenge. Our subcommittees will determine curricula, marketing tools, and a financing plan, as well as choose a learning management system to house assessments and provide online access to aspects of this training.

Existing inventories of training materials from training providers, product vendors, regional associations, and dealers are being collected and evaluated for possible use. The ultimate long-term goal of this effort is to expand the curricula adopted and developed by the committee to include all relevant topics to the industry for the needs of small, medium, and large dealers.

Will NLBMDA members participate in a national education program? We believe the answer is a resounding “Yes” if the result of their participation is enhancement of their companies' bottom lines. Many of us have spent money on training that has not had a measurable impact on profits. The training the NLBMDA is planning to offer through this committee will be geared toward improving profits and lowering expenses.

As a third-generation lumberman, a member of the New Jersey Lumber Dealers Association Education Committee, and a member of the Lumbermens Merchandising Corp. Planning, Development and Education Committee, I am frequently in discussion with other dealers regarding the state of education and training in our industry. Seldom am I told that we are doing enough. I see this initiative by NLBMDA as an opportunity for our industry to dramatically improve this condition. As my 80-year-old mother, a retired teacher, has always told me: “Education is one thing that can never be taken from you.”

If you are interested in providing material for consideration by the Education Committee or if you are a dealer interested in participating on the committee, please contact NLBMDA as soon as possible at 800.634.8645 or email me at [email protected].Bruce Stout is vice president of operations at Warren Lumber & Millwork in Washington, N.J.

NLBMDA would like to thank the individuals volunteering their time to the association's new Education Committee. They are: Jim Ayotte, NRLA; Gregg Brummer, BlueLinx; Doug Ford, Curtis Lumber; Donna George, Dunn Lumber; Tim Harris, Harris Ace Hardware; John Humphreys, Home Lumber; Heather Martin, Do it Best Corp; Frank Perry, Lanoga Corp.; Richard Phelan, BlueLinx; Britt Raburn, Lyndhurst Lumber; Bruce Stout, Warren Lumber & Millwork; Carl Tindell, Tindell's Building Supply; Casey Voorhees, WBMA; Vicki Worden, NLBMDA; Terry Warley, BlueLinx; Bill Schnitzer, BlueLinx; Jim Schreiber, BMHC; and Kathy Springs, BMHC.