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WCA Commemorates First Diamond Credential; Raises $8,500 at IWF

North America’s largest woodworking event was a momentous occasion for the Woodwork Career Alliance.

Patrick Molzahn receives the first ever Diamond credential from Scott Nelson, president of the WCA at IWF 2018.

Patrick Molzahn, left, receives the first-ever Diamond credential from WCA President Scott Nelson.

NELLYSFORD, VA – The International Woodworking Fair, held Aug 22-25 in Atlanta, provided the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America with much cause to celebrate.

For starters, Patrick Molzahn, woodworking instructor at Madison College in Madison, WI, received the first Diamond credential ever issued in a ceremony held at WCA’s booth. In addition, the WCA was the beneficiary of a pair of fundraising activities coordinated by IWF, including a new silent auction. Approximately $8,500 was raised for the non-profit organization dedicated to developing and growing a skilled woodworking workforce.

Molzahn, a founding member of the WCA’s Board of Directors, said the experience of achieving the Diamond credential 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 more than 125 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 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.

Having successfully progressed through all stages 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.”

Industry Shows Strong Support
IWF once again provided attendees an opportunity to financially support the WCA during the registration process. About 600 woodworking professionals generously checked off a box to donate $5 to the WCA.

IWF also designated WCA as the beneficiary of the silent auction of sports memorabilia and other collectables and valuable merchandise. The auction, presented by Expo Auctions of Sugar Hill, GA, raised nearly $5,500 for the WCA.

“I want to thank IWF for designating the WCA as the recipient of the silent auction and registration fundraisers for this year’s show,” said Scott Nelson, president of the WCA. “These contributions are extremely important to WCA and provide us with additional funds to support school woodshop programs and candidates to become credentialed woodworkers.”

Based on the tremendous success of the silent auction at IWF, plans are already in the works to organize a similar event at the AWFS Fair, July 17-20, 2019 in Las Vegas.

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About the Woodwork Career Alliance
The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America was founded in 2007 as a 501(c)(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 woodworking skill achievements. 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 WoodworkCareer.org.

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 pmolzahn@madisoncollege.edu.

Postsecondary Educators Embrace WCA Credentials

More colleges and adult education woodworking programs are implementing WCA Skill Standards to prepare their students for professional careers.

The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America’s (WCA) Passport credentialing system is becoming an integral component of well-respected postsecondary woodworking programs across the nation.

Instructors find that implementing the WCA’s nationally-recognized skill standards creates a sturdy framework not only for teaching students about essential tools and techniques but also for evaluating their ability to apply what they learn.

WCA Passports are being issued as standard operating procedure to students attending programs at Eastern Maine Community College, Bangor, ME; Madison Area Technical College, Madison, WI; Michigan Career and Technical Institute, Plainwell, MI; and New England School of Architectural Woodworking; Easthampton, MA.

The Passport is an individual’s record of the woodworking skills the holder has achieved. Accumulating Passport points is a resume builder for students looking to forge a successful career in the woodworking industry after they graduate. As Greg Larson, instructor at the New England School of Architectural Woodworking puts it, “Earning WCA credentials gives them one more thing that the next person doesn’t have. It gives them a leg up on the competition.”

What follows is a snapshot of how each of these four diverse and heralded postsecondary programs has embraced WCA skill standards and Passport credentials.

Maine College Is WCA Passport Champ
No institution has issued more WCA Passports than Eastern Maine Community College (EMCC). Entering this year, 149 students of the college’s Fine Woodworking and Cabinet Making program have received a Passport, a number that will grow by 30 more this year says Les Stackpole, faculty and department chair.

The Passport holders fall into one of two distinct programs offered at EMCC. First there are students who attend the college’s two-year woodworking program to earn their associate degree. The other group consists of dislocated workers, most of them from the area’s shuttered paper mills, who receive federal assistance for training to embark on a new career.

“About 100 of the Passports were issued to workers who lost their jobs and come here a six-month intensive woodworking course,” Stackpole says. “We’re able to help set them on a new career path.”

Students of the two-year program are required to get a WCA Passport at the start of their second semester. “By then they know if woodworking and carpentry is for them and whether they will stick with the program,” Stackpole says.

Students are evaluated on their skills and receive Passport points for the hand and machine skills they successfully demonstrate. “They usually end up with more than 30 WCA credits required for their WCA Green credential after two years here,” Stackpole says. “The Green level is an option. We usually have three or four students who graduate with a Green credential.”

Stackpole says his graduates usually have multiple job offers. “The students with the Green credentials are the most sought after because employers know that they are the cream of the crop. They can get into a bit of a bidding war for better pay and a better benefits package.”

Stackpole is a WCA chief evaluator and has such has trained five others to be WCA accredited skill evaluations, including one who is on his staff.

Stackpole is excited that four area high schools are ramping up WCA EDUcation programs for their high school wood shops. “Students who earn their WCA Sawblade certificate in high school will receive three credits if they enroll in our program,” Stackpole says. “It’s great to see the WCA credential program gain momentum.” 

 

Madison College Raises the Bar
Incoming students at Madison Area Technical College now receive a WCA Passport as part of their tuition and earn a WCA Sawblade Certificate when they complete their first semester of training.

“We have formally integrated the Sawblade Certificate into our curriculum,” says Patrick Molzahn, director of Madison College’s Cabinet & Millwork program and a member of the WCA Board of Directors. “As part of their first semester coursework, all students are taught and evaluated on the skills for a WCA Sawblade Certificate. That includes measuring and layout, and basic set up and operation of a table saw, jointer, drill press and portable hand sander. Once they have successfully demonstrated their abilities they take an online test to earn their certificate.

“By integrating the Sawblade Certificate into our curriculum, students begin to understand the process and requirements of the WCA Passport credentialing system,” Molzahn says. “This experience better prepares them to shoot for Green and Blue level credentials beginning in their second semester. Earning WCA credentials is a great opportunity to show their sincere interest in pursuing woodworking as a career to a prospective employer.”

First semester students who previously earned their Sawblade Certificate in high school can begin earning their Green Credential right away.

“We are seeing more and more students arriving with the WCA Passport,” Molzahn says. “Wisconsin has the largest concentration of high school WCA EDUcation members in the country. As a result, we are able to take students further in their credentialing journey.

“Getting students credentialed to the WCA Skill Standards raises the bar for all that we do,” Molzahn adds. “Our ultimate goal of being a WCA EDUcation member is to improve our training and make it more relevant to industry.”

MCTI Boasts 100% Placement
The Michigan Career Technical Institute (MCTI) is a state-owned career and technical education facility established in 1944 to train returning World War II GIs. Today, the woodworking program taught by industry veteran Jim Wellever, is one of 13 programs offered by the center.

“The majority of our students have a hidden disability like attention deficit disorder, autism spectrum disorder or vision or hearing impairment,” says Wellever, an early adopter of the WCA’s credentialing system. “Our goal is competitive employment. Everyone who is accepted into this program has been assessed to determine that they are likely to be successful professional woodworkers.”

The MCTI woodworking program consists of up to 7, 10-week terms with the majority of students graduating at 40 weeks. “The WCA Skill Standards are beneficial particularly in the early stages of the program,” Wellever says. “While we occasionally get students with lots of prior woodworking experience, we assume that our first-term students have no prior experience, especially when it comes to teaching them about safe operation of machines. We start with all of the basic stuff – using a tape measure, jointer, planer and table saw – then work on up.”

Students are issued a WCA Passport when they begin their second term. “If a student makes it through the first 10 weeks, he is likely to make it the rest of the way,” Wellever says.

“Students who complete all four terms graduate with a WCA Green Credential,” Wellever adds. “They all have the competency of at least one high-tech machine be it a moulder, CNC router, edgebander or veneer sander. Most of our students are competent on numerous high-tech machines, plus the basic machines like table saws.”

Wellever says his graduates are highly coveted by woodworking companies. “We always are at, or near 100 percent placement,” Wellever says. “Having the Green Credential will help the students down the road with their careers but because this program has been around a long time, we’re already kind of a go-to place.”

The average starting wage for MCTI graduates is $13.75 hour, plus benefits, Wellever says. “We track our graduates, currently, those who have been on the job for a year are making an average of $963 a week. It’s a very living wage.”

WCA membership has its privileges, Wellever saysl “Being an EDUcation member of the WCA and subscribing to its Skill Standards brings a lot of objectivity to our program. I think one of the greatest side benefits of belonging to the WCA is the networking that we do with other member schools, also, articulation with high school programs here in Michigan.” 

NESAW Takes the High-End Road
The New England School of Architectural Woodworking (NESAW) offers an intensive 5-month program each spring. “We treat our program like it’s a job,” says Greg Larson, director of NESAW. “Our students train eight hours a day, five days a week. Most of their training revolves around building a high-end custom kitchen for someone in our community.”

Most of NESAW’s students are in their late 20s or early 30s. “We get a lot of career changers,” says Larson, a member of the WCA Board of Directors and winner of the 2017 WMIA Educator of the Year Award.

To get his students up to speed, each of them receives a WCA Passport and is trained and evaluated to earn the WCA Sawblade Certificate. “Beyond that, they all have the opportunity to go for the Green Credential because they learn more than enough skills and put in enough hours to earn that,” Larson says. “Even though in this day and age we have no problem placing a successful student with an employer, I still encourage them to get their Green Credential to help them stand out from other applicants, but it’s totally up to them.”

Larson says woodworking companies are slowly beginning to understand who the WCA is and why it’s mission to develop Skill Standards and career paths is so critical to the future success of the North American woodworking industry.

“From an employer’s point of view, having a credential process tied to nationally recognized standards and not just my particular whims as an instructor is a big plus,” Larson says. “The WCA Skill Standards bring an important element of professionalism to the industry which is why I’m using them in my program.”

Learn more about the Woodwork Career Alliance and its Skill Standards and Passport credential program.

Woodwork Career Alliance Offers New Training Tool Kit

Online resources can be used to help establish training programs in the classroom or on the shop floor.

Nellysford, VA – April 2, 2018 –  The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America now offers a treasure trove of tools for training students and entry-level woodworkers. Unlimited access to the online vault of training resources is a valuable new benefit that comes with the $250 annual fee for EDUcation™ and MANufacturing™ membership in the WCA.

While most of the training tools were developed to help high school woodworking instructors implement the WCA’s Sawblade credential program, woodworking businesses can readily adapt them to address their specific training needs.

“Developing a structured program for training new hires from scratch is both time consuming and costly, especially for small shops,” said Patrick Molzahn, director of the Cabinet & Millwork program at Madison College in Madison, WI. “Businesses can use the WCA’s sawblade credential program and resources to train someone who is new or has limited woodworking experience on some of the most basic, yet important fundamentals of woodworking. It’s $250 well-spent.”

Each of the training modules includes a step-by-step learning plan and corresponding learning tools. For example, the learning plan for operating a table saw covers recommended reading assignments, instructional videos, and a checklist of saw safety, key parts and functions. The learning plan also features a series of table saw operator activities such as tapering, beveling and mitering. Rounding out the table saw module are evaluation tools for assessing the quality of the cuts. (Watch sample video: Tapering on a Table Saw.)

Other training modules available to WCA members include:

  • Layout and Measurement;
  • Milling;
  • Shaping;
  • Boring; and
  • Sanding.

“We plan to add new resources as often as possible,” Molzahn said. “We welcome contributions from industry, academia and others who are willing to help us build out our library.”

The training resources were detailed in a recent webinar presented by the Association of Woodworking & Furnishing Suppliers. Molzahn and Bert Christensen, woodworking instructor at Westosha Central High School of Salem, WI, discussed how they utilize the online tools in their respective programs to credential students to WCA skill standards. Click here, to watch the webinar on demand.

To learn more about the benefits of becoming a member of the Woodwork Career Alliance, visit WooodworkCareer.org.

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About the Woodwork Career Alliance
The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America was founded in 2007 as a 501(c)(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, how to get involved with its programs or to sign up to receive the quarterly WCA Pathways e-newsletter, visit WoodworkCareer.org.

Stiles & 3M Team Up to Deliver Sanding Seminar at Madison College

Over three dozen individuals from industry and education attended a recent lunch and learn at Madison College in Madison, WI, sponsored by Stiles Machinery and 3M. Participants learned about how to select proper abrasive types, as well as new technology in wide belt and portable power sanding. Seminar sessions included classroom presentations and machine and tool demonstrations in Madison College’s Cabinetmaking shop.

Presenters included Peter Van Dyke of Stiles Machinery and Ron Hansen and Dan Bygd of 3M. In addition to walking away with a wealth of knowledge on sanding, one lucky participant won a new 3M pneumatic D/A sander, provided by 3M as the door prize.

The Cabinetmaking program at Madison College is a Woodwork Career Alliance (WCA) EDUcation™ member and hosts several seminars annually that are open to industry members. To get on the notification list, contact Patrick Molzahn at 608-246-6842 or pmolzahn@madisoncollege.edu.