Alicia OelkersTimberTrader News sat down with Alicia to discuss her nine years with the association, and what she loves the most about the timber industry.

My background before working at TABMA is not what you would expect.

When I finished university I went to London and worked in a school for kids with learning and behavioural problems. When I came back to Australia, my experience in London helped me to get a role with a job network agency that assisted individuals who had to deal with limitations when trying to gain employment, and my role involved helping those individuals to get jobs. When I was settled back home I applied for a job with TABMA, which involved recruiting trainees and apprentices, and here I am today.

The funny thing is that I had heard of TABMA when I worked for the job network agency because one of my clients actually went for a traineeship with them. It can be funny how things work out sometimes.

I’ve been working for TABMA Queensland for nine years.

I started off not knowing anybody or anything about the timber industry. Today I love my job and the people I get to work with. There’s always something different going on and I’m never bored in this job because there’s always something new being thrown at you.

I love my role because we are a member-based association.

We service more than 100 members in both states, and our membership is made up of timber merchants, wholesalers, and fabricators. TABMA is there for its members, and in my job I want our members to get value out of their membership. I love it when people use our services, and ring for advice, because then they’re getting value and they understand the importance of our organisation.

The timber industry in South East Queensland is going well.

I can usually judge how the industry’s going through recruitment, and in the last 12 months the recruitment service has been really busy. People are starting to employ trainees, apprentices and skilled workers, so it’s exciting. We are getting feedback from the members saying it’s busy – so there are positive signs out there. Building approvals continue to increase, so it appears to be a good time to be in the timber industry. I remember when I started working at TABMA and the industry was experiencing a high, but it wasn’t long until it went right down. So it’s nice to see the industry coming out of that period, and even better to see a lot of our members survived through that tough patch.

You gain an emotional attachment to the industry members.

One of our members closed their doors in 2014 because the owner wanted to retire; he had tried to sell the business, but nobody was in the market for it at the time. When we were saying goodbye to him it was a bit emotional because he had been in the industry for more than 50 years, and he said to me “Alicia – I feel like I’m letting the industry down because nobody is taking over the business”. He had missed the point – that he had achieved an incredible 50-plus years in the timber industry. That was hard for me to hear.

I often feel like I’m part of my members’ teams as well. The timber industry is a very friendly industry, and whenever there is a networking event on I notice that everybody comes together even if they are competitors. When they are all in the same room – they’re just old friends.

“I started off not knowing anybody or anything about the timber industry. Today I love my job and the people you get to work with.”