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WCA: Setting the Standard for Professional Woodworkers

How the Woodwork Career Alliance’s credential Passport program can turn a mere job into a rewarding career.

Assemble 10 randomly selected wood product executives into a room and ask, “What is your company’s number one concern?” Odds are at least nine of them will respond, “Finding productive woodworkers.”

The skilled worker shortage is a universal and perpetual problem that promises to only get worse as more Baby Boomers retire.

Knowing that the woodworking industry’s skills gap would not fix itself, the Architectural Woodwork Institute and U.S. Forest Service partnered to found the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America. The overarching goals of the not-for-profit WCA are to elevate woodworking as a profession, support workforce development through the creation of skill standards and create career paths based on a credential Passport program recognized throughout the U.S. and Canada. WCA credentials now encompass measurable skill standards for more than 240 woodworking operations and machines ranging from accurately reading a tape measure through operating a CNC router.

Lessons Learned
How can the woodworking industry benefit from a robust, nationally-recognized credentialing program?

For a clue, take a look at how well-established credentialing programs are helping the automotive, metalworking and welding industries recruit, train and retain skilled workers. And keep in mind that these are but three skilled-job industries with which wood product companies compete for qualified help.

  • Established in 1972, the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence administers one of the best-known credentialing programs. More than a quarter million ASE technicians and mechanics are employed at dealer and independent auto clinics. In addition to elevating career opportunities for auto care professionals, shops that embrace ASE certification can promote that their mechanics are ASE certified to earn the trust and business of consumers.
  • The National Institute for Metalworking Skills was formed in 1994 to establish industry skill standards, certify individual skills against the standards, and accredit training programs meeting NIMS quality requirements. NIMS has developed skills standards for everything from machining through industrial maintenance. More than 120,000 credentials have been issued in precision metalworking and industrial maintenance disciplines.
  • The American Welding Society offers nine different certification categories from inspectors and supervisors to engineers and fabricators. Since its introduction in 1976, more than
    100,000 welding inspector certifications alone have been awarded.

Setting Standards Forges Career Paths
No matter what the occupation, the success of an industry-developed and validated credentialing program hinges on the buy-in of employees and employers alike. Some of the shared attributes of most credentialing programs for the skilled trades, include:

  • Certified professionals receive the respect and recognition they deserve for their commitment to professional development. Their credentials make them more marketable to find a job and more desirable for companies to want to hire them.
  • Employers can incorporate industry skill standards to help frame their training programs and develop incentive programs based on employees successfully achieving new skills. This creates a tool that can be used both for recruitment and retention.
  • Because they are based on industry-accepted standards, the individual’s credentials are transferrable from one employer to the next.
  • Professional credential programs are promoted to high schools and postsecondary CTE programs to help make their curricula more relevant in preparing students for successful careers in modern-day manufacturing.

Chicken-and-Egg Dilemma
For the moment, the woodworking industry faces the classic chicken-and-egg dilemma. Woodworking employers want people who are dependable, trainable and committed. Employees want to be fairly compensated and have opportunities to advance their careers as payback for committing to become more productive woodworkers.

The WCA, with its skill standards and credential Passport program firmly in place, has set the foundation to bring the two sides together so that the woodworking industry can develop and grow a skilled workforce. We encourage everyone who has a stake in the long-term health and prosperity of this time-honored vocation to lift up the hood and take a closer look at what the WCA has to offer.

Learn more about the WCA’s credential Passport program.

Woodwork Career Alliance’s Website Gets a Makeover

The champion of woodworking skill standards recognized throughout North America updates its website to better serve the industry’s need for workforce development.

Nellysford, VA – The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America (WCA), celebrating its 10th anniversary as the champion of woodworking skill standards, is pleased to announce the relaunch of WoodworkCareer.org. The newly redesigned website has been reorganized and updated to make it easier for woodworking professionals, suppliers and educators to access information about the WCA skill standards, allied credential passport program and other valuable employee training tools and resources.

“We’ve added so much information and so many new features to the website since its launch that it was definitely time for a reboot,” said Scott Nelson, president of the WCA. “By freshening the design and tightening up the site map, the website is now much easier to navigate.”
WoodworkCareer.org features detailed information about the WCA’s Woodworking Skill Standards and credential Passport program that are recognized throughout the North American woodworking industry. Separate pages have been developed for each of the WCA’s core membership groups, including:

EDUcation™ – Learn how secondary and postsecondary woodworking programs can benefit from subscribing to the WCA.
MANufacturing – Learn how woodworking companies can use the WCA Skills Standards and Passport program to train and incentivize employees.
INDustry™ Supporter – This new membership category opens up WCA participation to manufacturers and distributors of woodworking machinery and supplies. The $250 annual subscription goes toward helping defray the cost of the student credentialing process and student passports.
Student – Learn about the WCA credentialing process, the gateway to a rewarding woodworking career.
Employee – Learn how the cloud-based WCA Passport program can help you distinguish yourself and grow your earning potential as you develop new machine skills.

Since it was chartered as a 503c non-profit in 2007, the WCA has developed Skill Standards for more than 240 woodworking machines and operations and issued nearly 1,600 individual skill credential passports. The standards and passports are recognized by educational institutions and woodworking companies operating throughout the United States and Canada. The overarching goal of the WCA is to develop and grow the industry’s workforce by creating pathways for woodworkers to advance their careers and incomes as they learn new skills.
Learn more about Woodwork Career Alliance membership and the WCA Skill Standards and Passport program at the new www.WoodworkCareer.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 165 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 www.WoodworkCareer.org.

President’s Message: We’ve Got a Lot to Talk About at AWFS Fair

As the opening of AWFS Fair in Las Vegas draws upon us, please remember to stop by our booth 9648! Let us show you how WCA’s Woodworking Skill Standards can help improve your school woodworking or company training program.

I am proud to announce that during the 2016-2017 school year we issued 185 certificates or credentials. We now have more than 1,560 WCA Passport holders across the U.S. and Canada.

One final housekeeping note: There’s still time to sign up for one of our Accredited Skill Evaluator (ASE) training sessions being held at the show. Just email snelsonwca@gmail.com or call me at 402-610-6043 to reserve your spot now and pay at our booth during the show. These ASE training sessions are being offered at a discounted rate through special arrangement with AWFS. The ASE training registration includes a one-year subscription in WCA – a $250 value – all for the low fee of $100. The purchase of a WCA Passport is required. If you don’t already have a Passport, you may purchase one for $55 at our booth.

Hope to see you next week @ AWFS Fair 2017!

Scott Nelson
President
Woodwork Career Alliance of North America