Bridging the Gap: Hands-on Woodworking Training Program Develops Skilled Workforce

Jim Wellever, department head of the Cabinetmaking/Millwork Training program at the Michigan Career & Technical Institute (MCTI) in Plainville, MI, runs a department within the on-campus cabinet shop that trains people with disabilities to operate the machinery that is most likely to be found in woodworking shops across the United States. The program serves as the Midwest Advanced Woodworking Technology Center. Students are trained to safely operate machinery so that they can immediately enter the workforce upon graduation.

Student-Centered Curriculum
The program has an open enrollment policy for students who don’t have conventional learning styles. Tuition is free to qualifying students thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act and the program’s accreditation by the Centers for Occupational Education. Students are usually between 19 and 21 years old at the time of their enrollment. The average student participates in this training program for four to seven 10-week terms, depending on the individual student’s needs.

The curriculum, based on Woodworking Career Alliance of North America’s skill standards, trains the students on equipment ranging from basic core woodworking machinery to automated chop saws and rip saws to moulders, sanders, and CNC routers. The shop better manages its wood waste with a Weima shredder. Weima is a sponsor of the WCA.

Experiential Education
“What we are good at is giving the students enough experience at learning how to run a machine so that whenever they are entering the market, they know how to learn any machine they encounter,” Wellever said.

Wellever noted that this type of institutional learning does not qualify as charity. “These students are good workers doing great work. When they leave our program, they are often better equipped to operate machinery than people with two years of experience.”

Upon graduation, the students are matched with area employers to transition smoothly into the work force. This extraordinary program boasts a very high placement rate for its students.

Warmth, Safety, and Lower Energy Bills
In the last few years, a Weima briquette press was installed in the building as part of a new dust collection system. The 13,000-square-foot facility was equipped with a 1960s air system, which provided no return air to keep the building warm. The result was an extremely high power bill due to low-energy efficiency. The shop is now equipped with a modern return air system with fire protection. This allows the shop to be heated continuously throughout the snowy Michigan winters and adds an extra level of safety due to the more efficient dust control.

Long History
2019 marks the 75th anniversary of  the MCTI.  Beginning in 1944 as the Michigan Veteran’s Vocational school, MCTI has evolved into the second largest, comprehensive vocational rehabilitation facility in the country. As an original trade, the Cabinetmaking/Millwork department has been a steady source of highly qualified workers.

Read related article: Postsecondary Educators Embrace WCA Credentials

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply