Seymour High School woodworking students

State of the Woodwork Career Alliance

Avery High School students work toward earning their Sawblade certificates.

Q&A with Scott Nelson, president of the WCA.

2020-21 will go down as a time many of us would like to forget but will always remember. It may not have been all bad, but it most certainly was not all good.

Scott Nelson, president of the Woodwork Career Alliance, rolled up his sleeves to field questions about the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the non-profit organization and its core members. He also offered a glimpse of WCA programs and activities moving forward.

I would say that the best thing that came out of this challenging year is that we created a totally online training platform for our accredited skill evaluators. — Scott Nelson

Rich Christianson: How has the WCA managed to keep things together in the face of the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic?

Scott Nelson: It’s been an interesting year, to say the least. There was a lot of uncertainty because we didn’t know how severe Covid would get and how long the pandemic would last. I was concerned about what was going to happen for the 2020-21 school year and how many of our EDUcation members might not renew. Fortunately, our renewals were very strong. We even added some new schools giving us a slight net gain for the year.

To get a better handle on how our EDUcation members’ woodworking programs were doing, we conducted a pair of surveys. The first one was done in Spring 2020 right after the pandemic began. Then, we conducted a follow-up survey in the Fall. That second survey was especially revealing. We learned that nearly one-fifth of our member schools were closed, meaning students were being taught woodworking solely online. About 30 percent of the schools were in a hybrid model in which students alternated on different days between taking classes in-person and remote. Even schools that were fully open still had to limit how many students could be in the woodshop.

In preparation for the 2020-21 school year, we beefed up our online resource library exclusively available to our EDUcation and MANufacturing members. I particularly want to thank Patrick Molzahn of Madison College for creating dozens of new machinery videos and also added related lesson plans and instructor notes to the library. Based on the log-in activity, we know that a lot more teachers took advantage of these materials than in past years.

Right now, I’m extremely busy processing and sending out Sawblade Certificates for qualifying students. I was pleasantly surprised by how many of our programs were able to certify students for their Sawblade Certificates especially considering that many of them had limited opportunities to be in the shop. I applaud the teachers and students for rising to the challenge.

Christianson: Have there been any silver linings in this era of Covid?

Nelson: I would say that the best thing that came out of this challenging year is that we created a totally online training platform for our accredited skill evaluators. That has turned out to be very successful. The training can be done at the teachers’ leisure and it has a much more in-depth training component to it with one-on-one sessions between the lead instructor and the teacher.

So far, we’ve certified about 10 of more than instructors enrolled from 13 states for online ASE training. These teachers will be able to evaluate and test their students for their Sawblade Certificates. So, that has great potential to grow that program. All in all, I really feel good about it. I think that those who are getting their certification through the online program are excellent. I feel confident that they will be able to evaluate and register students correctly.

Christianson: That’s great news, but I imagine there’s been some downside. In what area has the WCA most struggled?

Nelson: We had some really good momentum heading into the pandemic. If I had to point to one thing, I’d say Covid slowed us down in the visibility department. Not having a live IWF last summer hurt. We always get a lot of traffic and the industry’s awareness of who we are and what we do always perks up because of the shows. We did do the virtual IWF Connect and AWI convention, but people don’t come looking for what they don’t know about so consequently our traffic was a fraction of what we are used to. Plus, I missed face-to-face conversations. It really hurt not being able to get our message out at shows, especially to our outreach efforts to wood product manufacturers.

Christianson: Sounds like your ready to get back at it in Las Vegas for the AWFS Fair.

Nelson: Absolutely. I’m looking forward to the AWFS Fair. I think everybody is, both on the supply and machine side and the wood manufacturing side. With the vaccine getting widespread usage, I feel it will be a good show. I think everyone who attends will do so with a purpose and I’m sure there will be a lot of new products to see since the 2019 AWFS Fair.

I’m excited about talking to people about what’s new with the WCA, including the online ASE training. Bruce Spitz (a WCA board member) and I will conduct a workforce development workshop. The program is geared toward helping companies pull together some of the essentials for starting or improving their own training program. Our goal is to help attendees develop a training template unique to their business to take back to their shops to flush out and implement.

We’re also partnering with Mimbus again. They’re bringing the SimSpray virtual reality device for training spray finishing. It’s a great magnet for drawing people into our booth.

Christianson: Now that we appear to be coming out of the pandemic are you seeing a surge of activity?

Nelson: I would say so. I’m definitely seeing a surge of teachers certifying students for their Sawblade Certificates who were unable to do so last year. Because their students were not in class, they couldn’t do the machinery evaluations.

We are also seeing some schools signing up in April, which is not totally unusual but is still a good sign that they are getting back in business and plan to be even more operational in the fall. I think we’re signing on new schools not only to utilize the WCA’s resources but also because the pendulum is swinging back toward the trades. More people are finding out that there are good career opportunities that you can get without going tremendously in debt at a four-year college. Consequently, more high school and postsecondary schools with woodworking programs are seeing the need to offer national certification based on the industry’s best practices and needs.

Richard Memory, left, and Chuck Buck pose with Memory’s Gold credential project.

Christianson: You’ve made several references to growth in school woodworking program membership, what about industry participation?

Nelson: Thanks in large part to financial support from our Gold and Silver sponsors, I think we’ve made good progress in making more wood product manufacturers aware of us through our press releases, plus participation at industry events and word of mouth. We’re adding new manufacturing members, but we have a long way to go. The reality is that we’re a small, non-profit organization with limited funds and really count on the work of dedicated volunteers to make things happen. We have a lot of ideas for new programs but have to stay focused and make priorities. The new online ASE training is a perfect example of that.

I’d love to see more companies step up to the plate like Jefferson Millwork has. They recently helped Richard Memory, one of their employees, be awarded the industry’s first WCA Gold credential. Jefferson has taken the initiative and demonstrated how a company can create a career path and opportunities for an employee to move up the ladder by tying training and incentives to motivate that person to learn and grow their skills.

We’re always looking for new ways to become more relevant to wood manufacturers. That’s why I’m excited that we’re partnering with Woodworking Network on a new workforce development survey. We all know that finding and keeping good employees is an immense challenge for the woodworking industry. We’re hoping the survey will help us identify some potential solutions and provide us guidance for developing new programs.

Christianson: Anything you would like to add?

Nelson: I’m just really looking forward to putting Covid in the rearview mirror and getting back to a little more normalcy.


Welcome New Members & Sponsors!

The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America is pleased to welcome eight new EDUcation™ member schools, two new MANufacturing™ members, 13 renewing INDustry™ Sponsors.

Thank you for your membership and support!

New EDUcation™ Members
Appleton East High School, Appleton, WI
Columbia High School, Columbia, NC
Cumberland County High School, Burkesville, KY
Florence High School, Florence, CO
Orangeville District Secondary School, Orangeville, Ontario, CA
River Falls High School, River Falls, WI
Seventy First High School, Fayetteville, NC
TC Robertson High School, Tryon, NC

Find WCA EDUcation™ woodworking programs in your area.

New MANufacturing™ Members
Busby Cabinets. Alachua, FL
Millwork by Design Inc., Tucson, AZ

INDustry™ Gold Sponsor Renewals
Atlantic Plywood,
Woburn, MA
Daniels-Olsen, A Metro Hardwoods Company,
Sioux Falls, SD
KCD Software, Cataumet, MA
National Building Material Distributors Association, 
Chicago, IL
Sherwin-Williams, Cleveland, OH
Stiles Machinery
Grand Rapids, MI
Wurth Group. Lincolnshire, IL

INDustry™ Silver Sponsor Renewals
Aiken Controls,
Lenoir, NC
Bessey Group, Cambridge, ON
C.R. Onsrud, Troutman, NC
Sorrelli Woodwork Consultants, Brooklyn, NY
WDLusk Consulting, Midlothian, TX
Weima, Fort Mill, NC

View all WCA INDustry™ Sponsors & Supporters.

Learn more about the benefits of becoming a WCA sponsor.

Woodwork Career Alliance Revs Up for AWFS Fair

The WCA is all in for the Vegas woodworking show to discuss its programs and industry best practices for developing a skilled workforce.


LAS VEGAS – The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America immensely looks forward to reconnecting with the wood products industry at the AWFS Fair in Las Vegas, July 20-23.

“We are thrilled to participate at the AWFS Fair,” said Scott Nelson, president of the WCA. “I imagine the show will feel like a big industry reunion. It’s going to be great to meet new people and to catch up with industry friends and supporters we haven’t seen since before the pandemic. I’m also excited about being able to discuss some of the new programs we’re working on for school woodworking programs and professional woodworkers.”

One of the newest programs WCA will showcase is its online training for accredited skill evaluators (ASE). The online platform allows woodworking instructors to schedule their ASE training and testing at their convenience saving them both time and travel costs. Since its soft launch last fall, 32 teachers from 13 states have enrolled in the online ASE training program.

“The biggest benefit for instructors far and away is the ability to get trained anywhere in the world and at their own pace,” said Greg Larson, vice president of the WCA. “We’ve also added more material to the training session, so it’s more in-depth. This will help us grow the number of WCA EDUcation programs throughout the U.S. and Canada that educate students using WCA’s woodworking industry-recognized skill standards. That’s a major benefit for the industry that is desperate to find qualified candidates.”

SimSpray VR

Visitors to the WCA’s booth can put their spray finishing skills to the test by using the SimSpray virtual reality apparatus.

Nelson and Bruce Spitz, a member of the WCA Board of Directors and former owner of Classic Millwork & Products, will co-present a workforce development workshop: Building a Training Program for Your Workers. The nuts-and-bolts session is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 22. Attendees will actually create training a template based on their production shop’s unique needs. They will also learn how to develop new employees for their first two years both in knowledge-based skills and machine-based skills.

Just for fun, the WCA invites all AWFS Fair participants – attendees and exhibitors alike – to put their spray finishing skills to the test. The SimSpray virtual reality finish training apparatus will be ready for all challengers in the WCA’s booth.

WCA representatives will be on hand to discuss its industry-recognized skill standards and credentialing programs for students and professionals.

Be sure to stop by the WCA’s booth #1979. Learn more at

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 300 woodworking machine operations. In addition, WCA has issued over 3,500 Passport credentials, a portable, personal permanent record documenting each holder’s record of woodworking skill achievements. More than 140 high schools and post-secondary schools throughout North America are WCA EDUcation™ members and a growing number of woodworking companies have joined the WCA as MANufacturing™ members. To learn more about the WCA and how to get involved with its programs, including sponsorship opportunities, visit

Woodworking Students Persevere

Six high school woodworking instructors discuss how COVID-19 has slowed, but can’t stop students driven to earn their WCA Sawblade Certificate.

During a school year fraught with unexpected stops and starts due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America (WCA) has already issued more than 200 Sawblade Certificates with hundreds more in the works.

High schools across the U.S. were impacted to varying degrees by the insidious disease. Most students had to adapt to splitting time in the classroom with taking classes online. Even schools that were open on a full-time or hybrid basis during the 2020-21 academic year would have to suddenly shut down for a week or two because of an outbreak. In addition, woodworking teachers had to keep their lesson plans flexible in the event individual students had to quarantine.

“This indeed has been a school year like no other and one that we hope we will never repeat,” said Scott Nelson, president of the WCA. “I’ve talked with many instructors who have shared the challenges they have faced. The Sawblade Certificate is an achievement always worth celebrating, but more so now than ever.”

Woodworking Teachers’ Tales
So, what has it been like to teach high school woodworking during a global pandemic? Six woodworking instructors, who have done just that and helped students earn their Sawblade Certificates to boot, share their stories.

Seymour High School woodworking students

Seymour High School students proudly display their WCA Sawblade Certificates.

Staci Sievert, technical education teacher of Seymour High School, Seymour, WI
My schedule this year only had me with Woods 2 and 3 students in the first semester. In this year of Covid, upperclassmen did not have to take what we would normally consider a full load as we were trying to limit the number of students in the building. As a result, I had fewer students in Woods 2 and 3 and we also had limited in-person days. Despite the challenges, all 11 of our Seymour students who attempted WCA certification, earned it.

The students’ biggest challenge was having very limited shop time to complete their projects and make time for certification. At the time I taught the Woods 2 and 3 students who earned the Sawblade certification, students were in-person two days a week. I modified lesson plans to accomplish what we could virtually to allow for as much in-person time as possible to be spent in the shop. It helped that we had 90-minute class periods with just half the students at a time, but students had to be very focused and often had to arrange to come back into the shop outside of regular class times.

I appreciate the WCA Sawblade certification process as it gives the Woods students a benchmark to reach for and achievement to celebrate. When I award the certificates, I also give the students a document that explains exactly what they did to earn certification so that it can be shown to a future employer or used on a resume. Most of my Woods students will go into manufacturing but not necessarily wood manufacturing. Regardless, earning the WCA Sawblade certificate is a valuable accomplishment since it shows that the student can safely operate equipment to precise specifications. This is an important skill regardless of what material is being processed.

Kettle Moraine High School woodworking class

Students at Kettle Moraine High School assemble laptop tables.

Scott Bruening, technology education instructor, Kettle Moraine High School, Wales, WI
It’s been quite a year so far, to say the least. I will say we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel here, which is fantastic.

We have been fully open since September with a few days of virtual instruction due to spikes in COVID-19 cases. We shut down as a school two times during the 2020-21 school year, once for two weeks in November and once for three days in December. In addition, throughout the year we have had kids who have been in and out to quarantine for 14 days. That put everyone at a different place as far as the progress and work completion goes. It was really hard to keep up with that early in the year but lately, with things normalizing, it’s been much better as far as student attendance goes.  It’s been a real juggling act this year and I know that both the students and myself are ready to put this behind us and have a restful summer break!

We had 13 earn their Sawblade Certificate in the first semester and are anticipating an additional 58 students will earn their certificate by June. We’ve moved the certification into our Woods I class, which accounts for the sharp increase in Sawblade certificates issued to students.

Additionally, it’s allowing us to keep going with additional tool points and hours for some students to earn their Green credentials. We’ll have students working on their Green credentials starting next year. Currently, we are working on curriculum adjustments to make the Green credential requirements work within our current class structure, too. We have basically what equates to three years of woods and are making adjustments to get the WCA certifications to fit in the Woods I class so that students can make that Green credential requirement with the additional required classes.

The students have done a fantastic job rising to the challenges that have impacted us this year. I think their continued flexibility has made it easy to continue to get them certified. For example, when we were occasionally forced to go from an in-person environment to virtual instantly, the students focused on measuring parts, which didn’t require equipment or being in the shop. The students’ ability to bounce back and forth was amazing.

The WCA Sawblade Certificate has been a fantastic program for our district and we are continuing to grow and expand our woodworking offerings along with the certification pieces. We are looking to certify even more students next year as things start to normalize.

The biggest challenge hasn’t been with the students; it’s been the spike in lumber cost and demand. We weren’t really impacted by the lumber costs as of yet. Our supply was not completely consumed from last year due to the closure for the remaining quarter and we were able to purchase wood last fall before it jumped in price. I must say it’s concerning for next year but for most of our local hardwoods, there has not been a massive jump in the price, unlike the construction lumber market. I just checked our suppliers’ prices today and the increase in the species we use was negligible.

Holmes High School students work on their measuring skills.

Mickey Turner, woodworking I, II, and III teacher, John A Holmes High School, Edenton, NC
My school system, Edenton-Chowan Schools, has been in a plan B since August 2020. Our students are in two cohorts. Cohort A meets Mondays and Tuesdays and Cohort B meets Thursdays and Fridays. Some students, including teachers’ children and those who opted-in, are in class four days a week. We also have remote students.

So far this semester, my students have not completed the tool assessments, but I am anticipating 13 completions of the Sawblade certification by the end of the school year. Last semester, I certified 12 students in Woodworking 2. Three of the 12 were remote students who came into the shop on Wednesdays.

We succeeded because we were allowed to come back in person, with COVID 19 safety and masks. Hands-on classes are impossible to teach without hands-on. Hands-on without hands-on is just theory.

Mt. Airy High School student poses with the Permboke table that he fabricated.

Greg Taylor, woodworking instructor, Mt. Airy High School, Mt. Airy, NC
Covid did not at all impact enrollment in my woodworking classes. Students were ready to come back. My numbers were very strong.

I had 24 students attain their certificates this year. We were fortunate enough to be face to face with our students in the fall and spring semesters. So, I did not have to navigate online instruction. I only give my level 2 and 3 students the chance to earn their Sawblade certificates because at that level the familiarity of the tools and concepts is somewhat easier to understand.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well the students wore masks. As far as social distancing, that was a little more difficult but not regarding equipment use. They are students after all. Students do not operate equipment normally in close proximity to one another anyway. I would wipe down desks between classes and students used readily available hand sanitizer.

Students of Burlington High School’s woodworking program made these serving trays. The project required them to exercise dado, rabbet, and drill press skills.

Juliebeth Farvour, Tech Ed/STEM101 Teacher, Burlington, High School, Burlington, WI
How many of your students have earned their Sawblade Certificates so far this semester?

My woodworking classes are each one-semester courses. During the first semester, 25 students successfully obtained their Sawblade certificates. This semester, I plan on testing an additional 12 students. I hope to have 37 certified students at the end of this school year.

We spent most of the first semester in a hybrid schedule, with the month of November going fully virtual. Students attended in-person for 50-minute classes, twice a week and were virtual for two days. Wednesdays were a “make-up” day. This semester, we spent a quarter in a hybrid schedule but have now transitioned into a five-day a week, A/B block schedule. Students attend class in person for 90 minutes, every other day.

Giving students the experience they need, when only seeing them twice a week, was definitely the biggest challenge. Add on those students who had to quarantine and we really felt the time crunch. Under the circumstances, I worked to ensure that virtual days were spent on safety tests, vocabulary, measurement practice, and layout practice. In-person days were devoted to machine familiarity and completing projects. When we were in the hybrid model, we were allowed to have students come in on Wednesdays and that helped immensely. Then again, since I only had half of the students at any given time, there was less of a wait to use the machines and I was more able to give students the one-on-one attention they sometimes needed.

Students in the woods program want to be there and spend time in the shop, and they accepted that there had to change due to the pandemic. When I explained the new protocols — washing hands before and after class, lots of hand sanitizer during class, and masks in addition to their safety glasses — students grumbled but stepped up and were very good about compliance. They also took advantage of the Wednesday open shop hours and made up any time they lost due to quarantine.

An Avery High School student cross-cuts lumber.

Nick Daniels, skilled trades instructor, Avery County High School, Newland, NC
We have been on a somewhat hybrid schedule since the fall. The majority has been four days a week face-to-face and one day virtual. We recently moved to five days a week face to face. The biggest challenge has been keeping students in school and out of quarantine. As a result, there has been a lack of consistency in scheduling.

Last fall, I had three students qualify for their Sawblade Certificate. I anticipate that seven more will qualify before the school year ends.

I have about a fifty-fifty split of students who are half doing it only because I require the Sawblade test as their final exam and the other half because they are eager to please and have a desire to accomplish as much as they can in the time they have. This fifty-fifty split has been pretty consistent since I began offering the WCA certification regardless of the virus.



Nominations for HFTS $1M Teaching Excellence Awards Ends May 21

CALABASAS, Calif.  — Applications are being accepted until May 21 for the 2021 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence. The fifth annual program will award cash prizes totaling more than $1 million to 18 of America’s best public high school skilled trades teachers and their programs.

Nominations can be submitted at

The mission of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is to increase understanding, support of and investment in skilled trades education in U.S. public high schools. The Prize for Teaching Excellence is its flagship program.

“We’re honored to shine a spotlight on excellent skilled trades teaching and learning in America’s public high schools and bring well-deserved attention to these amazing educators,” said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “In the five years since the prize was created, we have celebrated more than 70 prize-winning teachers from around the country and continue to collaborate with them to advance this important field of education.”

The best-skilled trades programs embody what great hands-on teaching and learning should look like in any classroom, for any subject. Excellent skilled trades teachers use project-based learning, teach skills like leadership and collaboration, and help students apply academics to the real world.

The past year has been a challenging time for all educators and skilled trades teachers have needed to be inventive to offer hands-on learning at a distance when schools were closed. The 2021 application will provide an opportunity for trades teachers to share how they adjusted and kept their students engaged.

The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence was started in 2017 by Harbor Freight Tools owner and founder Eric Smidt. The prize recognizes outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in U.S. public high schools and the valuable work of teachers who inspire students to learn a trade that prepares them for life after graduation.

Past winners of the prize are teachers who have led their students to rebuild homes destroyed by hurricanes, manufacture parts for major aerospace companies and run live automotive repair shops on their high school campuses.

“Think of terrific skilled trades teachers at your neighborhood high school or career and tech center, or the teacher who helped you learn your trade,” Smidt said. “First, thank them. Then tell them to apply for the prize.”

About the Prize:

  • Harbor Freight Tools for Schools has received more than 2,600 applications for the prize since 2017.
  • The benefits of the prize have had an impact on more than 50,000 students in skilled trades programs nationwide.
  • More than $3.5 million in cash awards have been given to 72 winning teachers and their skilled trades programs.
  • Winning teachers are invited to the annual Let’s Build It Institute, a three-day convening hosted by Harbor Freight Tools for Schools where teachers share best practices and pilot innovative ideas.
  • Three grand prize winners will receive $100,000 each, with $70,000 going to their high school skilled trades program and $30,000 going directly to the individual skilled trades teacher.
  • Fifteen additional prize winners will each win $50,000, with $35,000 going to the high school program and $15,000 going to the teacher.
  • Teachers whose school, district or state policy prohibits the receipt of the individual portion of prize earnings are eligible to apply on behalf of their school’s skilled trades program.
  • The application process and the prize are designed to give teachers access to ideas and practices through a network of like-minded exceptional educators and leaders.
  • For updates on the prize, follow Harbor Freight Tools for Schools on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

View past Teaching Excellence award winners. 


Hofmann Joins WCA Board of Directors

Chris Hofmann, U.S. Lamello product manager for Colonial Saw of Kingston, MA, has been appointed to the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America’s Board of Directors for a three-year term.

Hofmann has been active in woodworking education both on the national and local stages. He is currently chairman of the Woodworking Machinery Industry Association’s Education Committee and is also a technical advisor for the woodworking and carpentry program at Silver Lake Regional High School in Kingston.

Hofmann brings 28 years of wood products experience to the WCA Board, including running a custom woodshop for which he hired graduates of woodworking programs.

“I was trained as a traditional preservation carpenter and woodworker during my undergrad time at the University of New Hampshire in the mid-90s, then worked as a framing foreman in Maryland before starting Hofmann Joinery, which I ran for ten years before having to close it during the Great Recession in 2010,” Hofmann said.

“During the Hofmann Joinery years, though, I hired graduates from the University of Rio Grande (OH) and Thaddeus Stevens Tech (PA) woodworking programs as part of my team doing ultra-high-end work in the Washington DC market.  Now in my current position, I’ve visited over 2,500 woodshops and understand  how badly the next generation of woodworking professionals are needed.”

Hoffmann said he decided to volunteer his time to serve on the WCA Board because, “I’ve always been interested in keeping our trade/craft alive and healthy and I believe that there is merit in the WCA initiatives.”

Presidents Message: Itching to Get Back Out

2021 will hopefully be a better year for all!  How can it be anything but?

We’re starting to see some signs of a return to normalcy. More students are returning to the classroom, if even for only a couple of days a week. The Woodwork Career Alliance enrolled 167 new candidates to the Passport credentialing program since the first of the year.

We’re very excited about our new online program for training accredited skill evaluators. By making this training more convenient for woodworking instructors, we’ll be able to grow the number of WCA EDUcation members able to administer the WCA Sawblade certificate to students. This in turn will help increase the number of students registered as Passport holders. You can read about the ASE online training program in this edition of Pathways.

I’m also very pleased to welcome Chris Hofmann, U.S. Lamello product manager for Colonial Saw, to the WCA Board of Directors. Chris brings a wealth of diverse industry experience, including serving as chair of the Woodworking Machinery Industry’s Education Committee.


With the pandemic lending a whole meaning to cabin fever, I suspect that I’m not the only one who looks forward to getting back to face-to-face networking events. The WCA will be participating at the 2021 AWFS Fair, July 20–23 in Las Vegas. If you attend the show, please be sure to visit us at booth #1979. WCA will also participate in the AWFS Fair’s educational programs. We will present a 2.5-hour workshop, “Building a Training Program for Your Workers” targeted for manufacturing HR managers, plant managers, plant superintendents, woodworking shop owners and other stakeholders. We’ll provide additional details, including the date and time of the presentation, when it becomes available.

Teachers of WCA EDUcation member institutions are invited to apply for one of the five $750 Financial Teacher Assistance Scholarships to defray costs to attend the AWFS Fair. Click this link to learn more and apply.

In closing, I would like to thank our EDUcation Partners:  Franklin International, Quickscrews International, Bessey Tools of America, Rockler, The Taunton Press Inc., Veneer Technologies Inc., Microvellum, CabWriter Software and Stiles Education for their support of the WCA’s EDUcation Essentials Benefit Package.

Scott Nelson
Woodwork Career Alliance of North America


Six Thumbs Up for WCA’s New Online ASE Training Program

Last fall, the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America rolled out an online training program for accredited skill evaluators (ASE).

The initial thrust of the new program is providing more opportunities for high school and postsecondary woodworking instructors to attain ASE status. By doing so, they are able to use the WCA’s Skill Standards to teach and test their students on a wide variety of woodworking operations from reading a tape measure and basic layout through safely setting up and running a table saw or jointer. They are also able to provide students with the chance to earn a WCA Sawblade Certificate.

Pathways reached out to a half dozen instructors who were among the first to take the online ASE training for their feedback. The consensus opinion was overwhelmingly favorable, further validating the WCA’s investment to offer ASE training online.

Following is a summary of each respondent’s online training experience, as well as why he or she chose to become an ASE.

Noah Werner, the technology education teacher at the School District of Greenwood, WI, teaches woodworking to students in grades 7 through 12.

“These are all high and middle school students, both boys and girls, with a wide variety of skill ranges,” Werner said. “A large number of my students come into my classes with little to no experience in woodworking. I have had a few that had done some work outside of school with a family member or friend but typically this is their first experience in the wood’s lab.”

Werner was the first educator to take the WCA’s ASE training course online. He offered a candid critique of the experience.

“The part that I struggled with the most was the (lack of) instant feedback that is given during a traditional in-person setting,” Werner said. “The other item I missed the most was the ability to see a true professional teach me exactly how they do things.”

That said, Werner opined that the positives of the online training program far outweighed any negatives.

“I could not be more impressed with the online training,” Werner said. “Both of my instructors, Patrick Molzahn and Greg Larson, were top notch and made the process quite enjoyable. I loved the flexibility the online training offered. I could do it on my time, which allowed me to slow down and really understand what the training was all about. I think having a reputable online training option for instructors will allow more instructors to become certified.”

Webster noted that becoming an ASE will help him take his woodworking courses to a higher level. “I am always looking to further my program and provide the best possible experience for my students. Being able to evaluate students for the WCA Sawblade Certificate allows me to provide them with a skill set that is both transferable to an industry setting and sets them up to be life-long woodworkers.

“My focus in all of my class is both career and life ready. I want my students to leave my classes with a knowledge base that will help them with their future careers but also provide them with some skills to make their lives more enjoyable.”


Staci Sievert is a technical education teacher at Seymour High School of Seymour, WI. After teaching social studies for 22 years, Sievert transitioned into technical education four years ago after the school district was unable to successfully fill the position. She is currently teaching introduction to woodworking through Woods 3.

Asked why she decided to become an ASE, Sievert said, “The more we can get our students’ learning aligned with industry standards the better it will be both for the students and for industry. All tech ed students can benefit from being certified as it means they have met benchmarks for taking accurate measurements and safely running equipment to industry standards.”

Sievert gave kudos to the online ASE training course. “The online training was excellent. Other than my dislike for videotaping myself, it was great.  I could plan the training at night when it was most convenient and my assessor’s feedback –both written and during our virtual meeting — was exceptionally thorough. Our virtual meeting lasted 30 minutes. It was a valuable conversation. I enjoyed the opportunity to ask questions and receive feedback from an expert in the woodworking field.”


Chris Hedges, was recently hired as program manager of the Cabinetmaking and Architectural Woodworking program that will debut this fall at Hocking College of Nelsonville, OH. He’s been teaching woodworking for 10 years and has also run a custom woodworking business.

Hedges said he decided to take the online ASE training “in order to offer an industry recognized credential to both traditional and non-traditional students.” He added, “I felt it was comprehensive enough to ensure that I have been adequately trained and prepared to qualify potential registrants as skilled users of relevant machinery.”

Hedges said he hopes the new woodworking program will “establish Hocking College as a nationally recognized educational program with a mission that focuses on training both the mind and the hand.”


Three of the WCA’s newest ASEs – Ron Dorn, Roy Ward and Craig Honeysett — are fellow instructors at Webster High School in Webster, WI.

Ron Dorn

Dorn has been teaching woodworking for 20 years. He said he took the training to become an ASE so that he could offer his more advanced students in the introductory woodworking class he teaches an opportunity to earn their Sawblade Certificate. “I see the certificate as a way for students and programs to set themselves apart,” Dorn said. “The training course showed that the WCA takes great care in precision and safety.”

Ward is a technology education teacher who has taught woodworking for 22 years. He is teaching an introductory woodworking class that occasionally includes a student with a more intermediate skill set. “I liked the idea of students earning a Sawblade Certificate as well as our program receiving CTE incentive grant dollars.”

Ward noted training and evaluating students for the Sawblade Certificate will be limited to those demonstrating more advanced skills and commitment. “We don’t plan on cranking out Sawblade Certificates,” he said. “We are excited though, to be able to do so for the students who deserve the recognition.”

Honeysett is a technology education aide. He’s been a woodworking instructor for five years and like Dorn and Ward is teaching woodworking newbies. “I like the idea of a program that provides the students with both a path to follow and rewards for achieving their goal.”

Honeysett and Ward both cited numerous advantages to online training, including: no travel expenses, no need to take time off, the ability to complete the program at his own pace and the advantage of using Webster High’s woodworking  equipment for the testing component of the ASE program.


Asked to point out any downsides to the online training, Ward observed, “We are very competent and comfortable setting up, adjusting and using the equipment. If we were not, it would be very beneficial to have an instructor to show us what to do. When you take a class virtually, you have to find the information versus a teacher presenting it to you. It is also easier to ask in-person versus in an email.”

Learn more about WCA accredited skill evaluators and training.


WCA’s New Online Accredited Skill Evaluator Training Opens Many Doors

As part of their online ASE training, candidates watch several short videos and make observations about what they see as right or wrong.

The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America’s online accredited skill evaluator (ASE) training program, which debuted last fall, is a game changer in more ways than one.

For starters, it paves the way for more high school and postsecondary woodworking instructors throughout the United States and Canada to attain ASE status. This in turn opens doors for more students to participate in woodworking programs that incorporate the WCA’s industry-recognized skill standards and credentialing program.

The ultimate beneficiary is the North American woodworking industry. Wood product companies of all sizes and types stand to gain an influx of talented young men and women who have been trained to safely and properly set up and operate equipment based on the WCA’s measurable performance objectives. And while the initial roll-out of the online training program is focused on educators, it will ultimately allow wood products companies to accredit their training personnel as WCA skill evaluators as well.

The Impact of Online Training
Up until now, ASE candidates were greatly limited to when and where the training programs were offered. For example, WCA has traditionally scheduled training at the AWFS Fair in Las Vegas and the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta. In recent years, several sessions have also been held at The MiLL in Colorado Springs.

One of the reasons Wisconsin has more schools with ASE instructors than any other state is because of the relative accessibility and frequency of training programs conducted by Patrick Molzahn. Molzahn is a WCA accredited chief evaluator and director of the cabinetmaking and millwork program at Madison Area Technical College.

Most instructors of high school and postsecondary woodworking programs are not as fortunate as their Wisconsin peers to have training classes scheduled within driving distance. In addition to the inconveniences of time and place, many instructors cannot afford the costs associated with traveling to a location to get their training to become an ASE. Without the ASE designation, they are unable to enroll their students into the WCA’s Passport credential program that includes evaluating and testing their students to earn a WCA Sawblade certificate and for more advanced woodworking students to work toward their Green credential.

The barriers that have limited instructors from pursuing their ASE status has also reduced opportunities for the WCA to grow its Passport credential program in schools throughout the United States and Canada. The situation became even more pronounced as the novel coronavirus pandemic largely put a kibosh on face-to-face training.

That Was Then; This Is Now
Greg Larson, vice president of the WCA, said the online ASE training program he was instrumental in helping to develop addresses most concerns.

“We were working on the ASE online training program long before the pandemic hit,” said Larson, who is also owner/director of the New England School of Architectural Woodworking. “We knew that we had to make it easier for more educators to take the training.”

“The biggest benefit for the candidate far and away is the ability to get trained anywhere in the world and at his own pace,” Larson said. “We’ve also added more material to the training session, so it’s more in-depth. Plus, the ASE manual is now the online training program. Anyone who is already an evaluator can get access to the training modules just by asking and use them as a reference or as a refresher whenever they want.”

While there certainly are trade-offs between live and online training, Larson said, “I think by far, the positives outweigh the negatives. I know some people will miss the live interaction with the trainer but on the upside we still get the opportunity to see them in action and have a more personal one-on-one interview with them than we could when we had a live session involving a half-dozen or so instructors at once.”

Staci Sievert, technical education teacher at Seymour High School of Seymour, WI, was among the first educators to take their ASE training online. She rated the training program as “excellent” and looked forward to putting her status as an ASE to use in the classroom. “The more we can get our students’ learning aligned with industry standards the better it will be both for the students and for industry,” she said. “All tech ed students can benefit from being certified as it means they have met benchmarks for taking accurate measurements and safely running equipment to industry standards.”

The ASE Online Training Program in a Nutshell
The process of becoming an ASE begins by an educational institution or woodworking company joining the WCA as an EDUcation or MANufacturing member respectively. Among the many perks of the $250 annual membership fee is a voucher for one free ASE training class.

Next, the candidate fills out and submits the online ASE application along with a current resume and two references who can attest to the candidate’s skill set.

Once qualified, the candidate takes the online ASE training course. It consists of 11 modules ranging from what an evaluator is and how WCA credentialing system works through an overview of the WCA’s Skill Standards and how to conduct an evaluation. After completing the 11th module, the candidate takes a quiz.

After passing the quiz, the candidate is tested on measurement operations, including using a tape measure and caliper. The candidate then video records him or herself performing the five tool operations that make up the Sawblade Certificate, including:

  • Jointer – Edge jointing first edge
  • Table Saw – Ripping
  • Table Saw – Edge rabbet/single blade or dado set
  • Portable Hand Sander – Sand solid lumber
  • Drill Press – Drill holes completely through material

The candidate’s video-recorded operations are reviewed by a WCA training coordinator, who also schedules an online meeting to talk to the candidate about his/her application and test results. In addition, the candidate is shown a series of short sample evaluation videos and asked to point out what’s right or wrong in each.

After being formally accepted as an ASE, the candidate views instructional videos about the WCA’s online registry where Passport holders’ credentialing records are maintained. The new ASE’s first official duty is to enter his or her Sawblade evaluation results in the registry.

Learn more about becoming a WCA accredited skill evaluator.

The Importance of WCA Skill Evaluators
Accredited skill evaluators are at the heart of the WCA’s Passport credentialing program. They evaluate the skills of candidates pursuing their credentials based on the WCA’s Skill Standards, recognized throughout the U.S. and Canada. The skill standards cover a wide range of woodworking equipment and operations from using a tape measure and basic layout to running a table saw and CNC router.

High school students enrolled in WCA EDUcation member woodworking programs are eligible to earn a Sawblade Certificate if their instructor is an ASE. In essence, the instructor evaluates a student on his or her use of a jointer, table saw, portable hand sander and drill press. Once the student has successfully completed those evaluations, the student is required to pass an online test to receive the Sawblade Certificate.

More advanced high school students can build on their Sawblade Certificate by striving for a Green credential, the first rung of the WCA’s credentialing program for woodworking professionals. To achieve Green, the student or professional must complete additional machinery evaluations and amass 800 hours of shop experience. Woodworking professionals can progress from Green to Blue, Red, Gold and Diamond.

The individual Passport holder’s achievements, accumulated as skill points, are recorded in the WCA’s online registry. The record of the Passport holder’s skillsets can come in handy when applying for a job within the woodworking industry.

The WCA’s credentialing program brings a new level of professionalism to the woodworking industry.

Metalworking, welding and automotive are among other trades that have developed credentialing programs to recruit, train and retain qualified candidates into their ranks.




Welcome New Members & Sponsors!

The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America is pleased to welcome seven new EDUcation™ member schools, two new MANufacturing™ member, and three new INDustry™ Sponsors. We also welcome back eight sponsors for another year.

Thank you for your membership and support!

New EDUcation™ Members
Coleman High School, Coleman, WI
Columbine High School, Littleton, CO
Hutchinson High School, Hutchinson, MN
Oak Creek High School, Oak Creek, WI
Rosemount High School, Rosemount, MN
Swansboro High School, Swansboro, NC
West Ottawa High School, Holland, MI

Find WCA EDUcation™ woodworking programs in your area.

New MANufacturing™ Members
Allegheny Millwork, Lawrence, PA
Barlow Architectural Woodwork, Hampstead, NH

New INDustry™ Gold Sponsor
Cantek America, Blaine, WA

INDustry™ Gold Sponsor Renewals
AWI Quality Control Program,
Potomoc Falls, VA
Stanley, NC
Roseburg Forest Products,
Roseburg, OR
Cleveland, OH
Mooresville, NC

New INDustry™ Silver Sponsors
Black Bros.,
Mendota, IL
Gemini Coatings, El Reno, OK

INDustry™ Silver Sponsor Renewals
Eagle Mouldings
, Minneapolis, MN
IMA-Schelling, Morrisville, NC
Kerfkore, Brunswick, GA

View all WCA INDustry™ Sponsors & Supporters.

Learn more about the benefits of becoming a WCA sponsor.