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Timber Yard Operative

Source of Information: Next Step / DirectGov / Careers Advice Service

Timber Yard Operative

The Work

As a timber yard operative you would be employed in a timber merchants, a sawmill or a large DIY store. Your duties could include:

  • loading and unloading timber supplies either by hand or using a forklift truck
  • moving and stacking timber
  • sorting and labelling wood into sizes and types
  • transferring timber to the sawmill or workshop
  • treating timber, for example with preservatives
  • updating paper and computer records
  • making deliveries
  • advising customers and processing orders.

While most of the timber cutting for orders is done by staff in the sawmill, you may occasionally be asked to trim the timber to size using basic cutting and sawing tools.

Hours and Environment

You could expect to work up to 40 hours a week, Monday to Saturday, with possible overtime.

Most of your time would be spent outdoors in the yard. Working in a sawmill or warehouse could get very noisy and dusty. The work could be physically demanding with some heavy lifting at times.

Skills and Interests

  • a reasonable level of fitness
  • good customer care skills
  • maths skills to work out quantities and make accurate measurements
  • practical ability
  • teamworking skills
  • an understanding of health and safety regulations.


There are no set qualifications for this job, but some employers may ask for GCSEs (grades A-C) in subjects like maths, English, and design and technology, or equivalent qualifications like the BTEC Introductory Certificate/Diploma in Construction.

You may have an advantage when looking for work if you have some experience of warehouse or manual work. Experience of operating a forklift truck would also be useful.

You may be able to get into this career by completing an Apprenticeship. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. For more information on Apprenticeships, visit

If your job includes deliveries to customers, you would need a standard driving licence to use a van, or a Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) licence for a delivery wagon.

For more information about careers, training and qualifications in the timber trade, visit The Doorway website, which has been created by the Timber Trade Federation and its partners.


Your employer will usually give you induction training when you start, covering company policies, procedures and timber products. You might also receive forklift training.

You could work towards NVQ levels 1 and 2 in Warehousing and Storage. More details about NVQ qualifications, and details of short courses relevant to the industry can be found on the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) website.

You may improve your career prospects by working towards the Institute of Wood Science's (IWSc) Foundation, Certificate and Associate awards. The Foundation level can be studied online. See the IWSc website for more details.


Typical employers include timber yards, builders' merchants and sawmills. Vacancies are advertised in the local press and Jobcentre Plus, or you could apply directly to local businesses.

With experience, you could progress to supervisory work in the yard, mill or shop. You could also move into related areas like training and assessing, sales and marketing, or timber importing.

You may find the following useful for job vacancies and general reading: (links open in new window)

Timber Trades Journal
Builders Merchants Journal (links to timber companies in the Supplier section)
Directgov (Jobseekers page)

We do not accept responsibility for the content of external sites.

Annual Income

  • Salaries can be between 11,500 and 14,000 a year.
  • Operatives with duties like wood machining, or supervisory responsibilities may earn up to 18,000 a year.

Figures are intended as a guideline only.

Further information

If you would like to discuss your career options with a learning advisor at the Careers Advice Service advice line, call 0800 100 900 or use our online enquiry form.


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