WCA Issues First Diamond Credential

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The International Wood Fair (IWF) in Atlanta was the setting of another milestone for the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America. Woodworking instructor Patrick Molzahn of Madison College in Madison, WI, received the Diamond credential, the first ever issued by the WCA. This is the highest credential awarded by the WCA and is the culmination of more than 125 skill evaluations and three woodworking projects.

Molzahn, a founding member of the WCA Board of Directors, said the experience fulfilled a long-term goal. “I use the WCA credentialing system to evaluate and reward my students,” Molzahn said. “I have long felt the need to test the efficacy of our credentialing system by experiencing it from the candidate’s perspective.”

In addition to passing a wide array of skill evaluations on dozens of machines and tools, Molzahn completed projects for the three highest credentialing levels: Red, Gold, and ultimately Diamond. For his Red level credential, Molzahn built a 32mm cabinet, a design he uses with his students. For Gold, he built a maple face-frame cabinet with a raised panel door. Molzahn described the Diamond project, recreating six replacement windows and an entry door for a National Historic Landmark, as “the hardest I have undertaken in my career.” The project was featured in AWI’s Design Solutions Magazine in 2015.

Having successfully completed the progression of the WCA credentialing Passport program, Molzahn said he is confident that the WCA standards can be used effectively to measure a candidate’s woodworking abilities.

“For industry, the WCA credentialing system provides a template for recognizing and rewarding one’s skills. Moreover, employers can use the credentialing ladder to develop their talent and encourage continuing education.”

Learn more about the WCA’s skill standards and credentialing system.


Microjig Donates Table Saw Safety Device to High School Woodshops

Microjig, a manufacturer of table saw accessories, unveiled its new school donation program at the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta with the goal of putting two of its GRR-Rippers on every table saw in every woodshop program in the country by 2020.

“Microjig is built on the idea that there is a safer, smarter way for people to work with their hands and build their dreams,” said CEO Bruce Wang. “It’s our goal to end table saw injuries by 2020. We see this new donation program as an essential step toward that, arming the next generation of craftspeople and skilled trade professionals with the tools to empower them to succeed at their passions.”

As part of the new program, Microjig hopes to donate to the 2,714 public high schools with Career Technical Education (CTE) programs that offer construction and woodworking courses.

The GRR-Ripper was developed 15 years ago by Wang in an Orlando, FL, garage. It is meant to replace traditional push sticks with a new generation of woodworking technology. Unlike push sticks, which leave exposed hands and can lead to dangerous kickback, Microjig says the GRR-Ripper provides precision, safety and control for users while working with a table saw.

Each GRR-Ripper retails for $59, so with this donation program, MICROJIG aims to donate more than $325,000 to public schools across the country.

Click here to apply for two free GRR-Rippers. As part of the program, Microjig will also offer 50 percent off for all public schools interested in adding other company products or additional GRR-Rippers.

For more information about MICROJIG, visit microjig.com.

Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Names 52 Finalists for Teaching Excellence Prize

CALABASAS, CA — Fifty-two skilled trades teachers and teaching teams from across the country and their high schools were named today as semifinalists for the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools 2018 Prize for Teaching Excellence and are in the running for a share of $1 million in total cash awards.

The semifinalists hail from 27 states and specialize in trades ranging from construction and carpentry to automotive repair, welding, advanced manufacturing and agriculture mechanics. Their collective experience includes teaching students to work with solar power systems and hydraulics systems, build tiny houses and rebuild diesel engines, and more.  The semi-finalists—some competing as individuals and some as teacher teams—were selected by an independent panel of judges from among a field of more than 500 skilled trades teachers who applied for the prize. The list of the 52 semifinalists is available here.

Through two more rounds of judging, the field of 52 semi-finalists will be narrowed to 18 first- and second-place winners, who will split $1 million in total cash awards. The three first-place winners will each receive $100,000, with $70,000 going to their public high school skilled trades program and $30,000 to the individual skilled trades teacher or teacher team behind the winning program. The 15 second-place winners will each be awarded $50,000, with $35,000 going to their public high school program and $15,000 to the teacher or team. Semi-finalists whose school, district or state policy prohibits receipt of the individual portion of prize earnings were eligible to apply on behalf of their school’s skilled trades program. The first- and second-place winners are expected to be announced on Nov. 15.

“These semi-finalists represent amazing depth and breadth in high school skilled trades education, and they exhibit incredible enthusiasm for teaching students to work with their hands, to love learning and be prepared for the future,” said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “We are thrilled to recognize their exceptional teaching and to raise the profile of their excellent work through these awards.”

For the second round application, the semi-finalists will respond to a series of online expert-led video learning modules that are designed to solicit their insights and creative ideas about their teaching practices and how to inspire their students to achieve excellence in the skilled trades.

Each round of winners is selected by separate panels of judges independent of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools.

This is the second year of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, which was started by Harbor Freight Tools Founder Eric Smidt to recognize outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in American public high schools.

“Skilled trades teachers are unsung heroes,” Smidt said. “They teach our students skills that help them in life and in careers. We respect and value the men and women who work with their hands to design, build and repair homes, schools, hospitals and businesses in our towns and cities, as well as our cars, trucks and tractors. These skilled and creative workers keep our communities thriving. At the same time, there are now hundreds of thousands of great skilled trades job openings, and that number is expected to grow. We want to elevate the dignity and importance of this work by recognizing exceptional skilled trades teachers from our country’s public schools who open the door to learning and opportunity.”

News of the prize and other information about skilled trades education will be posted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

About Harbor Freight Tools for Schools
Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is an initiative of The Smidt Foundation, established by Harbor Freight Tools Founder Eric Smidt, to support the advancement of skilled trades education in America.  With a deep respect for the dignity of these fields and for the intelligence and creativity of people who work with their hands, this program was created to foster and shine a light on excellence in skilled trades education in public high schools. Believing that access to quality skilled trades education gives high school students pathways to graduation, opportunity, good jobs and a workforce our country needs, Harbor Freight Tools for Schools aims to stimulate greater understanding, support and investment by public entities and others in skilled trades education.  Harbor Freight Tools is a major supporter of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools program. For more information, visit https://harborfreighttoolsforschools.org.

WCA Brings Wood Instructors Together at IWF

Robert Lindsay, left, Jeff Seavolt, Daniel Kern. Patrick White, Justin Christianson and Kent Gilchrist pose at the WCA’s booth during IWF 2018 in Atlanta.

Woodworking teachers of current and prospective WCA EDUcation institutions took time out from the hustle and bustle of the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta to meet and greet at the WCA’s booth.

They included, Robert Lindsay, recently retired from Trenton High School of Trenton, MI; Jeff Seavolt, Maple Valley Jr. & Sr. High School of Vermontville, MI; Daniel Kern, Montgomery County High School of Mt. Gilead, NC; Patrick White, The MiLL of Colorado Springs, CO; Justin Christianson, School of Woodworking and Discipleship of Indianapolis, IN; and Kent Gilchrist, Chairman of the WCA Education Committee.

IWF Memorabilia Auction to Benefit Woodwork Career Alliance

Proceeds from winning bids on sports collectables and other valuable merchandise will support the WCA’s woodworking workforce development activities.


ATLANTA – A batting helmet signed by new Hall of Fame inductee Chipper Jones and a microphone autographed by Grammy Award vocalist Taylor Swift are among the many and diverse collectables that will be auctioned during the International Woodworking Fair.

The silent auction is presented through a partnership of Expo Auctions of Sugar Hill, GA, and IWF. Net proceeds will benefit the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America, a non-profit organization dedicated to developing and growing a skilled woodworking workforce.

The silent auction will take place until 3:30 p.m. on each of the first three days of IWF, Wednesday August 22 through Friday August 24. IWF attendees will be able to view most of the auction items on display tables located near the press room B402. These and other auction items also are available for viewing on Expo Auction’s website. Bids will be accepted via text and online. Notifications will be sent to bid winners regarding payment options and pick up. Winning bidders, including those not attending IWF, will be charged for shipping if required.

Visit accelevents.com/events/IWF2018 to view all auction items and learn how to participate in the bidding.

“IWF has been a long-time supporter of the Woodwork Career Alliance,” said Scott Nelson, WCA president. “We greatly appreciate being designated the recipient of this unique and fun fund-raising event. These funds will help us recruit more schools and woodworking companies to our credential Passport program.”

Learn more about the WCA at IWF booth 4154 or visit woodworkcareer.org.


About the Woodwork Career Alliance
The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America was founded in 2007 as a 501C(3) non-profit corporation and is governed by a volunteer board of directors. The WCA’s mission is to develop and administer a unified set of Skill Standards for the wood products industry. Since 2011, WCA has developed observable and measurable performance standards and assessments for more than 240 woodworking machine operations. In addition, WCA has issued more than 1,600 Passports, a portable, personal permanent record documenting each holder’s record of achievements as a woodworking professional. More than 100 high schools and post-secondary schools throughout North America are WCA EDUcation® members. To learn more about the WCA and how to get involved with its programs, including sponsorship opportunities, visit www.WoodworkCareer.org.


Scenes from 2018 SkillsUSA Cabinetmaking Competition

Medalists for the 2018 SkillsUSA Cabinetmaking competition hailed from high schools and colleges located in six states.

The winners were announced June 29 at the Awards Ceremony of SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, KY. More than 6,500 career and technical education students joined in the excitement of hands-on competition in 102 different trade, technical, and leadership fields.

SkillsUSA 2018 Cabinetmaking medalists. Front Row, HIgh School: Tyler McLaughlin, Silver; Bradlee Benjamin, Gold; and Ravindra Dave, Bronze. Back Row, College: Andrew Dearing, Silver; Alex Hamacher. Gold; and Johnathan Schnyder, Bronze.

Bradlee Benjamin of Berks CTC – East Campus of Oley, PA, took home the Gold Medal for high school students. He was joined on the podium by Tyler McLaughlin of Yutan Public Schools in Yutan, NE; and Ravindra Dave of Cary High School of Cary, NC, Silver and Bronze medalists respectively.

Alex Hamacher of Washburn Tech of Topeka, KS, won the Gold Medal for colleges. Andrew Dearing of Utah Valley University of Orem, UT won Silver; and Johnathan Schnyder of Jefferson Community & Technical College of Louisville, KY, won Bronze.

Students competing in Cabinetmaking demonstrated competencies related to the building maintenance trade. Contestants built a small cabinet from the materials and drawings supplied. They were expected to read the drawings, lay out and cut the parts using a table saw, laminate trimmer, hand drill, hinge boring machine and various hand tools. The parts had to t be accurately assembled, sanded and adjusted to tolerances specified by the judges.

Kent Gilchrist, a chief assess skill evaluator for the Woodwork Career Alliance, served as technical committee chair of the Cabinetmaking contest. Other members of the technical committee included AWI SkillsUSA Committee Chair Kristine Cox, Rowland Woodworking, Jerry Allen, Allen Millwork Co., KS; Jerry Brewer, Ohio Valley Door Corp., IN;  NC; Greg Heuer, Architectural Woodwork Institute, VA; Ted Robinson, Technique Manufacturing Inc., KS; John Volpe, Volpe Millwork Inc., OH; Charlie Zizumbo, Salina Planing Mill Inc., KS.

About SkillsUSA
SkillsUSA is a vital solution to help close the skills gap. This nonprofit partnership of students, instructors and industry ensures America has the skilled workforce it needs to stay competitive. Founded in 1965 and endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education, the association serves more than 360,000-member students and instructors each year in middle schools, high schools and colleges. This diverse talent pipeline covers 130 trade, technical and skilled service occupations, the majority STEM-related. More than 600 corporations, trade associations, businesses and labor unions support SkillsUSA at the national level. SkillsUSA programs are integrated into career and technical education through a framework of personal, workplace and technical skills grounded in academics. Local, state and national championships, designed and judged by industry, set relevant standards for career and technical education and provide needed recognition to its students. SkillsUSA also offers technical skill assessments and other workplace credentials. For more information, go to: www.SkillsUSA.org.

Click here to view a video about the SkillsUSA Championships.

Thanks to Kristine Cox for taking and posting all of the photos used in the slide show, except the podium ceremony. Click here to view all photos and videos from the 2018 SkillsUSA Cabinetmaking.

Related reading: Idaho Cabinetmaking Student Russia Bound for WorldSkills


No Rest for the Weary

2018 has been a busy and productive year so far for WCA and it’s only going to get more so as we head to Atlanta next month for the International Woodworking Fair.

For starters, we’ve enrolled 260 new Passport holders into the program and issued 147 new certificates and credentials.

Since our last Pathways, WCA has added nine new EDUcation™ members and two new INDustry™ sponsors.  Please check out list of new members and sponsors in the Welcome section of this edition of Pathways. We are extremely grateful to the machinery and supply companies that have signed on as Gold and Sawblade sponsors. The funds generated by our new sponsorship program help support EDUcation programs and WCA outreach activities. If you haven’t already, I hope you will take a look at the benefits of becoming a WCA sponsor. The $1,000 annual fee for a Gold sponsorship includes having your company’s logo displayed in four quarterly issues of Pathways and on the WCA website.

In May WCA held Accredited Skill Evaluator Training at the Manufacturing Industry Learning Lab (MiLL) in conjunction with the MiLL Academy curriculum training. The $250 fee for the optional third day of training allowed the teachers to receive the WCA ASE training without additional travel and covers their school’s WCA EDUcation membership the 2018-19 school year.  Six high school teachers received the training including five from new schools and one from Peyton High School.  The next MiLL Academy is August 22-24, 2018. Learn more and register at themillco.org/academy. Speaking of the MiLL, be sure to read the feature in this month’s Pathways highlighting the MiLL’s involvement with WCA.

Last month I traveled to Louisville, KY, for the SkillsUSA National Competition in Louisville, KY.  Some 44 high school and 21 postsecondary students competed in the cabinetmaking competition once again organized by SkillsUSA with help from the WCA.  It was truly rewarding to watch students show so much excitement and skill on a very tough cabinet project. If you ever have the chance to attend the national competition you will be amazed at the level of talent that is displayed by the youth of America in approximately 90 occupational competitions. Congrats to all of the SkillsUSA competitors and winners. Kudos also to Ethan Harrison, who will represent the USA in the WorldSkills Cabinetmaking competition next year in Kazan, Russia. Read all about it in Pathways.

IWF 2018 is almost upon us, August 22-25 in Atlanta, GA. I hope you are planning to attend and if you are, please stop by our booth 4154. WCA will hold the Bandsaw Skills Challenge throughout the show with the assistance of Mimbus, developer of the Wood-Ed Table. The Wood-Ed table is an educational virtual reality simulator that will be used in the competition to test contestants’ bandsaw skills. To participate, simply stop by our booth.

Finally, Kent Gilchrist and I will present an educational workshop, “Growing Your Skilled Workforce” 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Wednesday, August 22. Come and learn how to implement the WCA Skill Standards on your plant floor and develop your own training program. Click here to learn more and register.

Hope to see you in Atlanta!

Scott Nelson
Woodwork Career Alliance of North America

Welcome New Members & Sponsors!

The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America is pleased to welcome nine new EDUcation™ member schools and two new INDustry™ Sponsors.

Thank you for your membership and support!

EDUcation™ Members
Gateway High School, Aurora, CO
Green County ATC, Greensburg, KY
Hands On Deck Inc., Green Bay, WI
Ignacio School District 11-JT, Ignacio, CO
Kent Transition Center, Grand Rapids, MI
Oostburg High School, Oostburg, WI
Rocky Mountain High School, Fort Collins, CO
Sam Barlow High School, Gresham, OR
Santa Barbara High School, Santa Barbara, CA

INDustry™ Gold Sponsor
Friulmac USA, Hickory, NC

Industry™ Sawblade Sponsor
Aiken Controls, Lenoir, NC

View all WCA INDustry™ Sponsors

The MiLL: A Model to Help Bridge the Woodworking Industry’s Skills Gap

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The Manufacturing Industry Learning Lab, aka the MiLL, opened with great fanfare last fall in Colorado Springs, CO.

Billed as a national training center for the woodworking industry, the MiLL features more than $3 million worth of equipment operating under power in a 46,600-square-foot building. The facility offers woodworking instruction to students by day and adults at night.

At the core of the MiLL’s diverse training courses are the Woodwork Career Alliance’s skill standards and credential Passport program.

“Our curriculum is laced with the WCA skill standards,” says Dean Mattson, chief architect of the MiLL. “If a WCA standard can be approached or earned or taught, then it is. They are national standards that we use to accredit students and that translates to instant hirability.”

“It was a natural fit to incorporate the Woodwork Career Alliance’s credential Passport in the woodworking programs both at the MiLL and at Peyton High School,” says Tim Kistler, superintendent of Peyton School District for the past 16 years. “The Passport is stronger than a resume for students who want to pursue woodworking jobs because it documents all of the skills they have learned and it’s based on nationally recognized standards.”

“The MiLL is an extremely well-equipped facility that is a tremendous resource both for our educational system and industry,” says Scott Nelson, president of the WCA. “It’s a fantastic showcase to inspire students and adults to pursue woodworking careers.”

An Amazing Accomplishment
What makes the MiLL’s existence ever-more impressive is that Peyton School District, which only has a total enrollment of about 600 K-12 students, did not have a woodworking program before the start of the 2015-16 school year. That all changed in the summer of 2015 when Kistler and the Peyton School Board recruited Mattson to develop the Peyton Woods Manufacturing Program.

“Being in a rural area, we had a desire to establish a career and technical education program as an important component to our curriculum,” Kistler says. “We read about Mr. Mattson winning the Educator of the Year Award from the WMIA (Woodworking Machinery Industry Association) for his high school woodworking program in North Salem. We hired him as a consultant to convert a school that we shut down in 2008 into the Peyton Woods program.”

“I was impressed that the board of this tiny little school district came to me and said, ‘Come join us; we will support you,’” Mattson recalls. “It was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. When I started teaching woodworking at North Salem High School in 2009 I was still rather naïve because before that I was a businessman who ran my own custom woodshop and education was new to me,” Mattson says. “I soon began to wonder, ‘Why are young people who want to use their hands discriminated against?’ The industry is so desperate for people; I knew there was an opportunity to give these kids a career pathway.”

Mattson had the Peyton Wood program up and running in about 90 days by seizing on relationships he forged with industry suppliers at North Salem High School plus new ones he gained after winning the WMIA Educator award. His attention soon turned to developing the MiLL.

“Dean is a visionary,” Kistler says. “When he first came out to Peyton we talked about having the Peyton Woods facility double as a national training center. When the superintendent of Widefield School District in Colorado Springs heard about our idea, he said he wanted to be part of this.”

As the concept moved forward, it was determined that Colorado Springs and its proximity to an airport and hotels was better suited for a national training center. A former potato chip factory was purchased for $1.1 million and an additional $1.5 million was spent to convert the facility into the MiLL. Mattson once again rolled up his sleeves to secure equipment for the MiLL. Stiles Machinery quickly stepped forward with a pledge to loan several key pieces of equipment including CNC machines and edgebanders. Dozens of other industry suppliers jumped on board as well to loan or donate machines and supplies. “Things just started flooding in,” Mattson says. “We now have 256 machines and power tools at the MiLL.”

Branching Out
This fall, more than 115 high school students will take woodworking courses at the MiLL, including the first crop of Peyton seniors who have earned their WCA Sawblade certificates at the Peyton Woods Program. In addition to drawing student participation from Widefield and other area school districts, the MiLL will begin offering evening classes to students of Red Rocks Community College’s Fine Woodworking Program. The MiLL is also working with Wounded Warriors to offer training to ex-military personnel.

“We believe that we can have 250 to 300 high school students coming through our program each year,” Kistler says. “I think we can ultimately achieve a similar number in our evening classes. I see the program only getting stronger,” Kistler says. Part of the reason for Kistler’s optimism is that Peyton is introducing kids to woodworking earlier than ever. The success of an “exploratory” woodworking program for eight graders has led the district to open up the program to seventh graders this coming school year.

“Clearly not all of the kids who come through our program are going to become woodworkers,” Kistler says. “But I think hands-on learning strengthens their academics. I also imagine that a lot of these students will work their way through college using these skills.”

Several of the students have already had an opportunity to earn and learn through an internship program supported by Concepts in Millwork, an architectural woodwork business in Colorado Springs.

“Concepts in Millwork has been a great supporter,” Mattson says. “After their junior year, students can intern their and then when they graduate they can work there and come to the MiLL one day a week for continued training.”

The MiLL will host its second MiLL Academy, August 22-24. The first two days of the three-day program provide classroom and hands-on instruction to educators so that they can bring their woodshop course curriculum and techniques up to date. The third day of the academy includes the option for teachers to be trained as WCA accredited skill evaluators. The class will be instructed by Mattson, a WCA accredited chief evaluator.

Nelson was the lead presenter of the WCA training held at The MiLL in May. “We had six high school teachers, including three from outside of Colorado,” Nelson says. “I think that shows that the MiLL has the power to draw people from all over. Tim and Dean have done an excellent job of getting industry buy-in and promotion for the MiLL.”

Only the Beginning
Mattson’s contract with Peyton School District expired at the end of 2017. Untethered from day-to-day teaching responsibilities, he is focused on serving as a consultant to help launch other MiLL-type facilities.

“People have misunderstood what this facility is all about from the beginning,” Mattson says. “This is not the national training center. It is the model of what has to happen throughout the world of career technical education if we are going to make any meaningful progress toward fulfilling the woodworking industry’s critical need for skilled woodworkers.”

Since the MiLL opened its doors, Mattson says he has had serious discussion with six other entities, including one outside the U.S., about starting a MiLL. “Some of my discussions have included owners of woodworking companies who are thinking about selling their businesses to start a MiLL.

“The Colorado Springs project proved what can be done, but it can’t be the model for the future,” Mattson says. “The industry is going to have to pay for this stuff. Little school districts like Peyton can only do so much. The industry is starving for talent and it’s only going to get worse. They have to have a financial stake in programs like this if they want to reap the benefits.”

Learn more about The MiLL.

Westosha Central High Students Earn Sawblade Certificates

Among the woodworking students at Westosha Central High School of Salem, WI, who received their WCA Sawblade certificates were these five who showed up on the last day of the 2017-18 school year: Joseph La Jorge, left, Kyle Blume, Chris Sdralis, Jacob Hardesty and Lance Christopherson.

The students earned their Sawblade certificates by mastering basic woodworking skills in the award-winning program instructed by Bert Christensen.

Christensen was profiled in the Fall 2017 issue of Pathways. Read the article.