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 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.

Idaho Cabinetmaking Student Russia Bound for WorldSkills

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Ethan Harrison, a 2018 graduate of Blackfoot High School of Blackfoot, ID, will represent the United States in the biennial WorldSkills cabinetmaking competition Aug. 22-27, 2019 in Kazan, Russia.

Harrison earned the honor by winning a head-to-head competition at SkillsUSA last month in Louisville, KY. Runner-up, Hunter Thompson, a 2016 graduate of Cedar Ridge High School of Hillsborough, NC, will serve as the alternate if Harrison is unable to compete in WorldSkills 2019.

First held in 1950 in Madrid, WorldSkills aims to “raise the profile and recognition of skilled people and show how important skills are in achieving economic growth and personal success.”

“Both Ethan and Hunter did an excellent job in the run-off,” says Jeff Molzahn, a woodworking instructor at Madison College and newly appointed WorldSkills cabinetmaking advisor for SkillsUSA. In that advisory role, Molzahn will coach Harrison as he prepares for WorldSkills. He says he plans to build Harrison’s training program around the Woodwork Career Alliance’s skill standards.

“One of my goals is that Ethan will earn his WCA Green Credential during his WorldSkills training,” says Molzahn, a WCA accredited skills evaluator. “I think the WCA skill standards and evaluation process will dovetail nicely to get ready for WorldSkills. When you are getting your certification, you have an evaluator watching you work. While you might be really good on a table saw or other equipment, it’s a different experience having someone standing over and judging you. I think that experience will go a long way to help prepare Ethan for the pressure he will face on the big stage in Kazan.”

Both Harrison and Thompson qualified for WorldSkills by virtue of their solid placing in recent SkillsUSA competitions. Thompson won a gold medal in 2016. Harrison won silver in 2017.

Harrison says he only began learning woodworking as a sophomore at Blackfoot High School. His instructor, Peter Golinveaux, quickly realized his potential and encouraged him to compete in the state SkillsUSA competition. “He was my mentor and helped me with any question I had,” Harrison says. “I have really come to love woodworking; it helps me de-stress.”

Harrison says he prepared for WorldSkills using hand tools he purchased with scholarship money established in the honor of Rhett Fields, a Blackhawk High student who died in a motorcycle accident at age 17.  “Rhett was supposed to go to SkillsUSA nationals then he had his accident,” Harrison says. “He really inspired me and I really wanted to win this for him.”

Preparing for WorldSkills will dominate Harrison’s life during the next year. After the competition he plans to do missionary work then attend college. “I plan to build furniture to pay tuition,” Harrison says. “After I graduate I would like to have my own custom furniture shop making rocking chairs, tables and other one-of-a-kind pieces.”

Thompson already has a WCA Green Credential and is working toward his Blue Credential. He studied woodworking for four years under Keith Yow, woodworking instructor at Cedar Ridge High School, a WCA EDUcation member. “The WCA Passport program was a good structure to build my skills on,” Thompson says. “Mr. Yow, my instructor, was very helpful in my development and a great role model throughout my high school years.”

Thompson just completed his associate’s degree at Alamance Community College and will enter North Carolina State University as a junior this fall to pursue a degree in sustainable materials and technology. Upon graduating he wants to get a work for a large woodworking company. His ultimate goal is to run own furniture and cabinet business.

“Just being a finalist for WorldSkills was wonderful,” Thompson says. “It will look great on my resume.”

2018 SkillsUSA Medalists
In addition to the WorldSkills qualification contest, SkillsUSA featured the annual Cabinetmaking competition for postsecondary and high school students from around the country.

Winning medals at the college level were:
Gold — Alex Hamacher, Washburn Tech of Topeka, KS.

Silver — Andrew Dearing, Utah Valley University of Orem, UT.

Bronze – Johnathan Schnyder, Jefferson Community & Technical College of Louisville, KY. Jefferson College is an EDUcation member of the WCA.

Winning medals at the high school level were:
Gold – Bradlee Benjamin, Berks CTC – East Campus of Oley, PA.

Silver – Tyler McLaughlin of Yutan Public Schools, Yutan, NE.

Bronze – Ravindra Dave of Cary High School of Cary, NC.

Joe Davis Named 2018 WMIA Educator of the Year


Joe Davis, with one of his many award-winning students.

Joe Davis, woodworking instructor at the Dale Jackson Career Center, of Lewisville, TX, received the 2018 Educator of the Year Award from the Woodworking Machinery Industry Association.

Davis is an accredited skills evaluator of the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America; his program is a founding WCA EDUcation member. High school students who take a third semester in the DJCC woodworking program are introduced to the WCA skill standards and Passport program with the opportunity to earn a Sawblade Certificate. Many of Davis’ students have gone on to lead successful careers as woodworkers.

Davis received the Golden Globe Award for outstanding woodworking educator during the 2018 Woodworking Industry Conference in Maui. He was nominated by Erich Mazurek, president of Maze Machinery. 



Contestants Wanted for WCA Bandsaw Skills Challenge at IWF

Competition will put real-world woodworkers to the test in a virtual reality world.

Nellysford, VA – Woodworkers attending the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta, can compete for prizes and bragging rights by entering the WCA Bandsaw Skills Challenge. The competition will be held all four days of the show, Aug. 22-25, at the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America’s booth #4154.

Through special arrangement with Mimbus, contestants will put their bandsaw skills to the test by operating the Wood-Ed Table, a virtual reality training system. Mimbus Inc. of Chicago, IL, created the Wood-Ed Table as a training tool to teach students and novices how to operate basic woodworking machinery in a safe, dust-free environment. In addition to the bandsaw, the Wood-Ed Table features three other woodworking machinery simulation modules: a ripsaw, jointer, and shaper.

“The Bandsaw Skills Challenge will be a great way to attract woodworkers into our booth and spark conversations about the WCA’s Woodworking Skill Standards and credential Passport program,” said Scott Nelson, president of the WCA. “It will be fun to watch contestants operate a virtual reality bandsaw that functions much like the real thing but without the sawdust.”

The WCA Bandsaw Skills Challenge will be held continuously at the WCA’s booth. Participants will don a virtual reality headset and complete a brief bandsaw exercise on the Wood-Ed Table. The Vulcan software that operates the Wood-Ed Table will score each contestant on cutting regularity, hand positioning, time management and more. A leader board will highlight the competition’s high scores.

Workforce Development Seminar
The WCA also will showcase its woodworking skill standards and programs through its participation in IWF’s educational conference.

The WCA will present, “Growing Your Skilled Workforce,” 10:30 a.m. to noon Wednesday, Aug. 22. The seminar will pair Nelson with Kent Gilchrist, director of operations and design for Purposeful Designs of Indianapolis, IN. The presenters will discuss how to use the WCA Woodworking Skill Standards and training resources to train new hires and develop the skills of current employees. Learn more and register at


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

Harbor Freight to Begin Accepting Apps for $1M Teacher Prize May 16

CALABASAS, CA — Harbor Freight Tools for Schools announced it will award more than $1 million in cash prizes to outstanding public high school skilled trades teachers and programs, doubling the amount awarded for last year’s Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.

The 2018 prize will honor 18 public high school skilled trades teachers and their programs with $1 million in cash awards. Three first-place winners will each receive $100,000, with $70,000 going to the 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 the high school program and $15,000 to the teacher/team.

The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence was started in 2017 by Harbor Freight Tools Founder Eric Smidt to recognize outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in U.S. public high schools that inspires students to learn a trade that prepares them for a career after high school. The inaugural prize awarded more than $500,000 in prizes to three first- and seven second-place winners. It drew nearly 700 applications from 48 states from a wide range of skilled trades instruction, including automotive technology, welding, carpentry, agriculture mechanics, advanced manufacturing and marine systems technology.

“We were overwhelmed by the response and the extraordinary pool of applicants last year and wanted to award more money to more skilled trades teachers to advance the important work that they’re doing in our public high schools,” Smidt said. “These inspiring educators are passionate about teaching their students life skills and trades skills they can take beyond the classroom and into solid careers, many right out of high school, that will help drive our economy.”

The prize is designed to recognize outstanding skilled trades instruction and give teacher applicants access to ideas and practices through a network of like-minded exceptional educators. The digital application for the prize solicits creative responses to a series of online expert-led video learning modules designed to help skilled trades teachers be more effective in the classroom.

“This is not a traditional teaching prize,” said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “We are looking for teachers who are not only accomplished skilled trades educators in teaching and inspiring their students but also are lifelong learners themselves, seeking to continuously improve their classroom practices.”

The need for skilled trades professionals in the U.S. is urgent and growing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2024, there will be more than 1.5 million skilled trades job openings as Baby Boomers retire.

For more information and to register, visit  Applications open on May 16 and are due July 6, 2018. The applicants with the top 50 scores will be announced as semi-finalists on Aug. 15, and the first- and second-place winners will be announced on Nov. 15. Updates on the prize will be posted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Each round of winners will be selected by separate panels of judges. Harbor Freight Tools for Schools does not select the first- or second-place winners.

About Harbor Freight Tools for Schools
Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is a program 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

For additional info, including a video featuring 2017 winners, click here.

Stiles Machinery Presents Solid Wood Technology Forum at Madison College

Stiles Machinery field service rep Kevin Price demonstrates moulder calibration and setup.

More than 40 individuals from industry and education gathered at a recent lunch and learn sponsored by Stiles Machinery and held at Madison College, Madison, WI. Participants spent the day learning about technology and practical applications for working with solid wood, as well as networking with current students.

Stiles product specialist Peter Van Dyke kicked the day off with an overview of the modern rough mill and highlighting multiple types of machinery that can be used to efficiently process wood. Following that presentation, participants were divided into groups and received more theoretical information from Van Dyke and practical demonstrations from Stiles field service rep Kevin Price on handling and preparing tooling, profile knife grinding, and moulder calibration and setup.

The Cabinetmaking program at Madison College is a Woodwork Career Alliance (WCA) EDUcation™ member and hosts several seminars annually open to industry members. To receive notification of future events, contact Patrick Molzahn at 608-246-6842 or

President’s Message: Maine State Prison, SkillsUSA & Other Updates

Since our last edition of Pathways, WCA has added eight new EDUcation™ members and five new INDustry™ sponsors.  Please check out our new members listed in the Welcome New Members section of Pathways. The INDustry Sponsorship category is designed to provide a way for manufacturers and distributors of woodworking machinery and supplies and other industry stakeholders to cost-effectively support the WCA and its EDUcation members. Visit our website  to discover which level of sponsorship best fits your company. Sponsorship fees range from $250 for Sawblade level to $1,000 for Gold.

In WCA MANufacturing™ news, the pilot Passport program at the Maine State Prison Industries that we featured in Fall 2017 Pathways is moving forward. Twenty-three inmates have completed the layout sections and are well on their way in obtaining the Green Credential. In addition, Jefferson Millwork of Sterling, VA, featured in Pathways Summer 2017, has successfully brought one of its employees to the Red Credential.  I truly applaud Jefferson Millwork for their ongoing efforts to achieve a trained work force.

Things are very busy this time of year for many of our EDUcation members.  There is a lot of activity with the testing of students for their Sawblade certificate and for participating in state SkillsUSA competitions. I helped with the Nebraska Cabinetmaking Competition and was very pleased with the talent exhibited by these young individuals. We had 25 competitors from high schools and 10 competitors from postsecondary schools. I’ve included a few photos from the competition in this post.

Congratulations and good luck to Tyler McLaughlin of Yutan Public Schools, Yutan, NE, and Derek Summers of Wayne State College, Wayne, NE. They are moving on to represent Nebraska in the 54th annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference, June 25-29 in Louisville, KY. 

Please visit our website and do a search using our interactive map to find EDUcation members – both secondary and post-secondary school – near you.  These schools are a true source for your future employees! I encourage you to get to know your local school’s instructors and support their efforts to teach students about the craft of woodworking.

Finally, don’t forget to mark your calendar for IWF 2018, August 22-25, in Atlanta. Plan on visiting WCA at Booth 4154 to talk about how we can work together to develop and grow a skilled woodworking work force.

Hope everyone is having a great year!

Scott Nelson
Woodwork Career Alliance of North America