Welcome New Members & Sponsors!

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

Thank you for your membership and support!

New EDUcation™ Members
Canaan Memorial High School, Canaan, VT
Hill-McCloy High School, Montrose, MI
MakeHaven Inc., New Haven, CT
Sheboygan Falls High School, Sheboygan Falls, WI
Smith Vocational High School, Northampton, MA

Find WCA EDUcation™ woodworking programs in your area.

New MANufacturing™ Member
MCS Woodworking LLC, New Berlin, WI

New INDustry™ Gold Sponsor
, Dale, IN

INDustry™ Gold Sponsor Renewals
Atlantic Plywood,
Woburn MA
Daniels-Olsen/Metro Hardwoods,
Sioux Falls, SD
M.L. Campbell,
The Woodlands, TX
North American Building Materials Distributor Association (NBMDA),
Chicago, IL
Stiles Machinery,
Grand Rapids, MI
Web-Don, Charlotte, NC
Wurth Group North America, Vernon Hills, IL

New INDustry™ Silver Sponsors
C.R. Onsrud,
Troutman, NC
Star Moulding,
Bedford Park, IL
WDLusk Consulting,
Dallas, TX

INDustry™ Silver Sponsor Renewals
Aiken Controls,
Lenoir, NC
Weima America, Fort Mill, SC

View all WCA INDustry™ Sponsors & Supporters.

Learn more about the benefits of sponsoring the WCA.

Video: Madison College’s Cabinetmaking Program

This short, yet informative video, highlights the Cabinetmaking & Millwork program at Madison College. The program is a charter EDUcation member of the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America.

Learn more about WCA EDU membership.

Young Cabinetmaker Savors WorldSkills Experience

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Ethan Harrison calls representing the United States in the international competition a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity.’ 


“Very, very intense.” That’s how Ethan Harrison described competing in the WorldSkills Cabinetmaking competition held last October in Kazan, Russia.

“Every second you had to be doing something and thinking ahead to the next things that had to be done,” said Harrison, who represented the United States in the three-day event. “We were basically given half of the time that you would need to complete the project. It was a challenge for everyone to face the additional obstacles and pressures that were created by the time crunch.”

Harrison placed 27th among the 30 WorldSkills competitors, but came within a handful of points of moving up several rankings. “I know I could have done better, but looking around (during the competition) I could see that everyone made plenty of mistakes,” Harrison said. “It just depended on where you made them and how everything else went to impact your score.”

“I think coming into the competition that we were a little blindsided by the time constraints,” said Jeff Molzahn, an instructor of Madison College, who helped Harrison prepare for WorldSkills. “Both of us expected to put out a quality finished product but it was not possible in the allotted time.”

Molzahn witnessed the impact of contestants’ putting speed before accuracy in serving as an evaluator for the WorldSkills Competition. “When I saw all of the projects standing side by side, I was really kind of dismayed by the fact that they lacked quality. All I saw was a bunch of projects that had a lot of flaws. Whoever got the least number of flaws would get the most points and win.”

“Jeff did a great job of training me but neither one of us knew what to expect at WorldSkills,” Harrison said. “The competition required you to do multiple parts at once and then turn them in on a timetable. Because I had not trained for that and was not aware of it, I was at a huge disadvantage to many of the competitors who either had competed in other world-wide events or had experts who had experience in those competitions.”

Adding to the time-induced stress, Molzahn said, were the “tight quarters” assigned to each of the 30 competitors. “They were really packed in there, probably a 10-foot by 12-foot space to work on their project.”

Molzahn said the project was a free-standing, two-door cabinet with one drawer and a sketch face veneer top. The unit was about 36 inches tall, 24 inches wide and 18 inches deep. In addition to producing the sketch face, some of the other skills the contestants had to demonstrate included hand-cutting dovetails for the drawer, crafting mortise-and-tenon legs and rails, edgebanding panels, constructing panel frames and installing door hinges.

Training for WorldSkills the WCA Way
A graduate of Blackfoot High School in Blackfoot, ID, Harrison qualified for WorldSkills by winning a one-on-one competition at SkillsUSA 2018 in Louisville, KY. The year before, he won the Silver medal at the SkillsUSA nationals.

To prepare for the WorldSkills stage, Harrison spent eight months training in Madison, WI, often interacting with students enrolled in Madison College’s Cabinetmaking & Millwork program. He also worked on three different yet similar test projects, all small furniture pieces. A significantly modified version of what Molzahn referred to as the “Ireland project,” was used at WorldSkills.

In retrospect, Molzahn said he probably was not strict enough about setting time limits Harrison to complete the test projects. “What happens at the competition is that they have less than 24 hours over three days to build these cabinets that would take a cabinetmaker 60 hours or more to put out a quality product. They are really rushing these kids. I didn’t fully understand that until I got there and saw what was going on.

“I trained Ethan as a cabinetmaker,” Molzahn continued. “He learned knowledge that we can take with him for the rest of his life. If I had just trained him as a competitor – made him build each test project three, four or five times – he might have done better in the competition, but that’s about it.”

“I think the biggest advantage of training at Madison College was being able to use all of the machinery there, especially the shaper which was the primary tool that we used in Russia,” Harrison said. “The panel saw was another key tool used heavily in the competition. By and large, having so much time to work with the machinery helped me gain the skills I needed so that I felt comfortable walking up to a machine and just go.”

As part of his training, Molzahn, who is an assessed skill evaluator for the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America, introduced Harrison to the WCA’s Passport credentialing program. Harrison earned his Blue credential plus tool points toward the Green credential, the second level of the WCA’s five-level credentialing system.

Harrison said he benefitted from being evaluated on a wide range of the Woodworking Skills developed by the WCA to earn tool points for his credentials. “It was a way for me to test my skills including the core things you should be thinking about every time you walk into a shop or turn on a machine. Now, with the Passport, I’ll have something to show to a shop owner that I have these skills when it comes time to look for a job.”

Ethan Harris and his woodworking advisor Jeff Molzahn at WorldSkills in Kazan, Russia.

A Bright Future
Harrison went home to Blackfoot for a couple of months before heading to Lima, Peru, on a two-year mission for the Church of Latter-day Saints. After he completes his mission, he plans to enroll in Pittsburg State University’s Architectural Millwork and Manufacturing Technology program. “My goal is to work in an architectural woodworking shop, hopefully in project management or shop management,” Harrison said.

Molzahn is confident that Harrison will have a successful career. “His hand skills are just out of this world. He’s a hard worker, works well within a group and showed during his time in Madison that he is capable of grasping an incredible amount of technical information.”

“I’m so grateful to all of the people who have helped me from my high school shop teacher to Jeff and all of the other mentors I’ve had in life and woodworking,” Harrison said.

“Participating in WorldSkills was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I have no regrets. I did my best. I moved 1,500 miles from home and trained as hard as I could and with all of the resources I had. In the process I learned a lot about life and a lot about building cabinets. I look back on it positively, even my ranking. It was still an honor to stand alongside 30 of the best young cabinetmakers in the world.”

An Olympic-like Atmosphere

Ethan Harrison, the U.S. representative in the 2019 WorldSkills Cabinetmaking competition held in Kazan, Russia, said the ceremonies of the event reminded him of the Olympics.

“There was an entire soccer stadium filled with people and fireworks going off as each country was introduced and walked up to the stage,” Harrison said. “That was probably the biggest moment for each of us, the pride and honor of representing our country and waving our flag.”

Jeff Molzahn, instructor of Madison College, also likened the pageantry of WorldSkills to the Olympics. “Russia invested a lot of money into the event and they were just wonderful hosts,” Molzahn said. “To me it felt like what I see on TV when I watch the Olympics. The opening and closing ceremonies were sensational. They even had President Vladimir Putin there to give a speech for the closing.”

A total of 1,354 young professionals representing 63 countries competed in 56 skill competitions. In addition to cabinetmaking, the event included contests in 3D digital game art, floristry, cloud computing, CNC milling, mobile robotics. baking, hair dressing, freight forwarding to name a few.

First held in 1950 in Madrid, Spain, WorldSkills aims to “raise the profile and recognition of skilled people and show how important skills are in achieving economic growth and personal success.” The 46th WorldSkills competition will take place in Shanghai, China, in 2021.

Learn more at WorldSkills.com.

29 High Schools Join Woodwork Career Alliance

Students of Hononegah High School pose with their fall semester woodworking projects.

Nellysford, VA – The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America welcomes 29 high school woodworking programs as EDUcation™ members for the 2019-20 academic year.

The 29 new EDU members include 13 schools in Wisconsin, four each in North Carolina and Illinois, and two in California. The other six schools are located in Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Utah, Washington and Alberta, Canada.

With the newly added schools, WCA EDU membership now totals more than 130 in the U.S. and Canada. In addition to high school woodshops, EDU membership includes college woodworking programs and other career technical education institutions.

EDU member programs are licensed to use the WCA Woodworking Skill Standards and Passport credentialing program recognized throughout North America. Other EDU member benefits include access to training materials and videos, plus free and exclusive discounts for woodshop necessities through the WCA Essentials Benefit Package.

Chadrick Parrott, who has been teaching woodworking classes for 12 years, including the last seven at Indian Valley High School of Gnadenhutten, OH, said he chose to join the WCA “to formalize my curriculum to align with current industry standards. I hope to improve our curriculum and develop relationships with other teachers and industry professionals.”

Jason Glodowski, who instructs about 50 students each year at Hononegeh High School in Rockton, IL, said, “I decided to join the WCA because of the national certification that students can obtain as well as the standardized nationally recognized assessments in the program. I’m hoping my local business partners recognize and value my certified students in the hiring process. And I’m also hoping that it brings more local and state recognition to my program, in regards to level of quality and what is to be expected of my students.” Glodowski noted that Hononegeh High School plans to add a second level cabinetry class.

“We’re pleased to welcome these new EDU members to the WCA,” said Scott Nelson, WCA president. “These schools are demonstrating their commitment to making sure their woodworking programs are in line with industry’s needs for candidates who have been trained to safely operate equipment and have demonstrated the aptitude to continue growing their woodworking skills.”

The full list of new WCA EDU member high schools includes:

Arroyo High School, El Monte, CA
Bartlett Yancey High School, Yanceyville, NC
Battle Ground High School, Brush Prairie, WA
Beloit Memorial High School, Beloit, WI
Bertie High School, Windsor, NC
Crosby-Ironton High School, Crosby, MN
D.C. Everest High School, Schofield, WI
Dakota High School, Dakota, IL
F. J. Turner High School, Beloit, WI
Fennimore High School, Fennimore, WI
Franklin High School, Franklin, WI
Hillcrest High School, Midvale, UT
Hononegah Community School, Rockton, IL
Indian Valley High School, Gnadenhutten, OH
Jefferson High School, Jefferson, WI
Johns A. Holmes High School, Edenton, NC
Kettle Moraine High School, Wales, WI
Lord Beaverbrook High School, Calgary, AB
Louisburg High School, Franklinton, NC
Mukwonago High School, Mukwonago, WI
Oregon High School, Oregon, WI
Palmyra-Eagle High School, Palmyra, WI
Pecatonica High School, Pecatonica, IL
Ridgewood High School, Norridge, IL
San Marcos High School, Santa Barbara, CA
South Milwaukee High School, South Milwaukee, WI
Spring Creek High School, Spring Creek, NV
Stoughton High School, Stoughton, WI
West High School, Wauwatosa, WI

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 more than 2,500 credentials, a portable, personal permanent record documenting each holder’s record of woodworking skill achievements. More than 130 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 WoodworkCareer.org.

KCD Software Supports WCA’s Efforts to Grow a Skilled Woodworking Workforce

KCD Software is the first software developer to become a Gold Sponsor of the Woodwork Career Alliance.


Cataumet, MA – KCD Software, a leading design-to-manufacture software provider for the cabinet and closet markets, recently signed on as a Gold Sponsor of the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America (WCA).

The not-for-profit WCA works with high school and postsecondary woodworking programs to help them develop skills-based curricula. WCA also provides tools to wood product manufacturers to develop employee training programs.

The Gold Sponsorship program supports the not-for-profit WCA’s mission to elevate the woodworking profession to youth and job seekers, support workforce development through the creation of skill standards, and create career paths based on its credentialing Passport program recognized throughout the United States and Canada. WCA credentials now encompass measurable skill standards for more than 300 woodworking machines and operations ranging from accurately reading a tape measure through operating a CNC router.

“We greatly appreciate and welcome the support of KCD Software as a Gold Sponsor,” said Scott Nelson, president of the WCA. “With the help of our sponsors we have continued to increase industry awareness and use of the WCA skill standards and Passport program. These are important tools that schools can adopt to shape their woodshop programs and that woodworking companies of all sizes can use to recruit, train and retain great employees.”

“KCD Software is pleased to pledge its support to help the WCA develop and grow a skilled woodworking workforce,” said Tara Murphy, co-owner of KCD Software. “We recognize that the skilled worker shortage in our industry is a universal problem. We applaud the WCA for developing programs that promote the woodworking profession and create career opportunities.”


About KCD Software
KCD Software is developed for custom cabinetmakers by custom cabinetmakers. Core values of fairness, innovation and customer satisfaction drive KCD Software’s commitment to making great design, price and manufacturing software for the custom cabinet and closet industries. The Development Team has been recognized by the Adex Award for Woodworking Design and the AWFS Sequoia Award for Innovation in Software Productivity for outstanding product development. Learn more at kcdsoftware.com.

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 more than 2,500 credentialing Passports, a portable, personal permanent record documenting each holder’s record of woodworking skill achievements. More than 130 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 woodworkcareer.org.

WCA Updates Passport Credentials

The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America has updated its Passport with the latest information about the WCA’s credentialing program and how it works.

The updated Passport includes:

  • Overview of the WCA’s more than 300 woodworking skill standards from layout to finishing.
  • Explanation of certification levels beginning with the Sawblade Certificate for students and Green Certificate for woodworking professionals through , Blue, Red Gold and ultimately Diamond.
  • Summary of membership categories for school woodworking programs, wood product manufacturers and individuals.
  • Concise history of the WCA.

View the newly designed Passport info.



Wisconsin Adds 17 New WCA Evaluators

Seventeen more educators recently completed their Woodwork Career Alliance (WCA) Skill Evaluator training at Madison College.

These teachers are now certified to award WCA skill points and credentials to their students. While the WCA has evaluators in 23 states and two Canadian provinces, Wisconsin has the highest concentration of Accredited Skill Evaluators (ASE) in North America. Spurred on by funding from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, high schools in the state can receive up to $1,000 per student for each credential awarded.

“Interest in the Woodwork Career Alliance is accelerating,” stated WCA President Scott Nelson. “Teachers see the positive benefits in aligning their curricula to industry standards and taking advantage of the many resources the WCA has to offer.”

The Woodwork Career Alliance is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization designed to assist wood manufacturers in finding and training skilled woodworkers.

For more information about the WCA, visit woodworkcareer.org

Madison College is pleased to partner with the WCA to help train the next generation of woodworking educators. Since 2011, nearly 100 evaluators have been trained at the college. For more information on Madison College’s programming, visit madisoncollege.edu or contact Patrick Molzahn at pmolzahn@madisoncollege.edu or (608) 246-6842.


Welcome New Members & Renewing Sponsors!

The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America is pleased to welcome 20 new EDUcation™ member schools, two new MANufacturing™ members, three new INDustry™ Sponsors. We also welcome back four sponsors for a second year.

Thank you for your membership and support!

EDUcation™ Members
Bartlett Yancey High School, Yanceyville, NC
Battle Ground High School, Brush Prairie, WA
Bertie High School, Windsor, NC
D.C. Everest High School, Schofield, WI
F. J. Turner High School, Beloit, WI Wauwatosa
Fennimore High School, Fennimore, WI
Franklin High School, Franklin, WI
Hononegah Community School, Rockton, IL
Indian Valley High School, Gnadenhutten, OH
Jefferson High School, Jefferson, WI
Johns A. Holmes High School, Edenton, NC
Lord Beaverbrook High School, Calgary, AB
Louisburg High School, Franklinton, NC
Mukwonago High School, Mukwonago, WI
Oregon High School, Oregon, WI
Oxnard High School, Oxnard, CA
Palmyra-Eagle High School, Palmyra, WI
Pecatonica High School, Pecatonica, IL
South Milwaukee High School, South Milwaukee, WI
Spring Creek High School, Spring Creek, NV
West High School, Wauwatosa, WI

Find a WCA EDUcation™ woodworking program in your area.

MANufacturing™ Members
Anton Cabinetry, Pentago, TX
VSI Custom Cabinets Inc., Lynwood, CA

New INDustry™ Gold Sponsors
Architectural Woodwork Institute Quality Certification Program,
Potomoc Falls, VA
Blum Inc., Stanley, NC

New INDustry™ Silver Sponsor
Williams & Hussey, Amherst, NH

INDustry™ Gold Sponsor Renewal
Roseburg Forest Products, Springfield, OR

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

View all WCA INDustry™ Sponsors & Supporters

President’s Message: WCA EDUcation Membership Is Growing

WCA is ending the annual renewal process for all EDUcation members and I am happy to report that the renews are coming in at a very good rate. In addition, we have added 21 schools as EDUcation members,  plus two new woodworking companies to the ranks of our growing MANufacturing membership.

See the full list of all our newest members and sponsors.

WCA is also growing its roster of Accredited Skill Evaluators. We will be adding 20 new ASE teachers during training sessions at Montgomery County High School in Mt. Gilead, NC, on Oct. 24 and at Madison College in Madison, WI, on Oct. 25. These ASE instructors will be able to start evaluating students in their woodworking programs to earn WCA tool points toward earning their Sawblade Certificate.

What makes both ASE training sessions particularly timely is that we have articles related to the woodworking programs at Montgomery High School and Madison College in this edition of Pathways. I encourage all woodworking instructors to check out the article about the North Carolina Summer Career and Technical Education Conference. Dan Kern, WCA chief evaluator of North Carolina and an instructor at Montgomery High School, coordinated the woodworking workshops during the CTE conference.

The news item related to Madison College concerns Ethan Harrison who represented the U.S. in the WorldSkills woodworking competition in Kazan, Russia. Ethan honed his skills with instruction and encouragement from Jeff Molazhn, instructor at Madison College, who also happens to be an ASE.

Finally, I’d like to offer my personal congratulations to Richard Memory, apprentice woodworker at Jefferson Millwork & Design, for being the first professional to earn his WCA red credential. Jefferson Millwork has demonstrated its leadership as a WCA MANufacturing member by intertwining the WCA skill standards, credentialing program and financial incentives to reward employees like Richard who advance through the company’s training program. Bravo!

Scott Nelson
Woodwork Career Alliance of North America




Q&A with Tim Fixmer: Staunch Advocate of Woodworking Education

Tim Fixmer, president and CEO of CCI Media, welcomes attendees to the 2019 Executive Briefing Conference held in San Jose.


The CEO of CCI Media discusses Woodworking Network’s commitment to presenting educational opportunities for the industry and his personal support of the Woodwork Career Alliance.


Tim Fixmer, president and CEO of CCI Media, has been a fixture of the woodworking industry for the majority of his long publishing career beginning with his early days at Woodworking & Furniture Digest, later retitled Wood Digest. His current role has him guiding the fortunes of FDMC and Closet & Organized Storage magazines, plus a host of trade shows and events that includes Wood Pro Expo, the Cabinets & Closets Conference & Expo, the Executive Briefing Conference and Canada’s Woodworking Machinery & Supply Conference & Expo. All of these properties are umbrellaed under the Woodworking Networking banner, which also serves as the online hub for posting industry trends and news, technical articles and videos that are regularly disseminated through the Daily Brief and other CCI Media-branded newsletters.

A common theme across CCI Media’s print, online and live event platforms is serving up content devoted to educating woodworking owners, managers and shop floor personnel on topics that can help them do their jobs better and make their companies more competitive. The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America has also benefitted significantly from Fixmer’s focus on education and training. FDMC has created and regularly run complimentary full-page ads promoting the WCA and earlier this year Woodworking Network signed on as a WCA Gold sponsor.

Fixmer partnered with the MiLL in Colorado Springs, CO, to create the Woodworking Netwrok Histroci Library. MiLL students built the bookcases to store bound volumes of Wood & Wood Products, FDM, Wood DIgest and related titles.

More recently, Fixmer and CCI Media teamed up with The MiLL (Manufacturing Industry Learning Lab) in Colorado Spring, CO, to develop the Woodworking Network Historic Library. Students at the MiLL, an EDUcation member of the WCA, built bookcases to store multiple decades of bound volumes of Wood & Wood Products, FDMC, Wood Digest and related publications. Woodworking Network has also partnered with Willy and Ingrid Volk of European Woodworking to create the Woodworking Network/Volk Scholarship to benefit deserving MiLL students.

WCA recently conducted a phone interview with Fixmer to learn more about what makes “Tim tick” when it comes to helping better the woodworking industry by offering learning opportunities and supporting the WCA credentialing program. Following are highlights of that conversation.

Woodwork Career Alliance: Most of your four-plus decades in trade publishing have been tied to the woodworking industry. What is it about the woodworking industry that continues to hold your interest after so many years?

Tim Fixmer: I’ve always been attracted to woodworking and enjoy working with wood as a hobby. My introduction to the industry came when I worked at a woodworking plant while I was in college. I took a semester off of school to assume the role of supervisor in a plant which was highly automated at that time. We built chopping blocks and cutting boards out of hardwoods. We had a rough mill operation all the way through to finished goods. I had first-hand experience of setting up and operating machinery such as a moulder, and focusing on plant efficiency, operations and workflow. I had a great mentor and as a very young person, I got some management experience at the same time. Once you’ve experienced the smell of hardwood in your nose, it’s hard to get rid of it. That experience led me to the industry and really made me love it.

After I graduated, I started working at Johnson Hill Press for an agricultural publication. As soon as we acquired Woodworking & Furniture Digest, I ran into my boss’ office and told him, “I got to work on this!” His response was, “No you don’t.” But I said, “I really do!”
I ultimately coerced him into giving me a shot. It was beginning of a real eye-opening experience for me. When I got out in the field and started talking to our woodworking readers it occurred me that the industry is filled with hard working, honest people of integrity who really care about the end product they are putting out. It’s all of these good people with a real dedication to their craft that makes my career extra rewarding.

WCA: What do you consider the biggest change the North American woodworking industry has experienced during your tenure?

Fixmer: CNC technologies, software, robotics and other forms of automation have rapidly changed the pace of the industry. I spent some time out of the industry, serving as publisher of magazines in high-tech markets. When I came back to the woodworking industry, I immediately recognized the huge impact technology had had on the marketplace during my eight-year hiatus. The industry itself transformed from one of mass production to a mass customization industry. The incredible advances in CNC technology allowed for that to happen.

The gain has not been without pain. The CNC era has created some huge challenges for woodworkers who have been resistant to embracing new technology. Many people are drawn to become woodworkers because they like to work with wood and think of themselves as craftsmen. It is our job as a media company to convert them from the craftsman mentality to adopting technology to become world-class manufacturers. They have to have that mentality regardless of size or how many employees they have. A one-man or one-woman operation has to see him or herself as a world-class manufacturer or it’s probably not going to work out well for them.

Fixmer’s support for WCA includes running compleimentary ads in FDMC magazine.

WCA: The industry’s struggles to recruit, train and retain skilled workers are well documented, including by your publications. As the industry’s workforce ages and workers retire there are not enough young people coming up through the ranks to replace them. Technology eliminates the need for a lot of material handling jobs but still the skills gap is growing. Do you have any ideas of how we can turn the tide on the skilled labor shortage?

Fixmer: I think those kinds of attitudinal things ebb and flow. The labor shortage has been caused in large part by our society’s attitudes of where we want our children to work. The atmosphere in which we grew up in as a nation. When our parents were coming out of World War II, there was a heavily positive recognition of manufacturing and manufacturing jobs. As our generation of Baby Boomers grew up, the parents who worked in the factories wanted “something better” for their kids and they wanted them to be educated. The blue-collar job was not the apple of their eye anymore. I think that as a result, they really wanted their kids to go to college and they didn’t see those two things as synonymous.

I recall a friend who went to college and then went info manufacturing. His parents said, “You spent all of that money to go to college to get a degree and now you are going to work in a factory. Are you nuts?”

Education is essential. I come from an education family. Both of my parents were teachers. When my dad couldn’t afford to raise a family on a teacher’s salary, he got a job as a text book salesman and then became a consultant for a textbook company related to the education field. My mother was the first kid in her family to go to college. She took a break to have kids and then went back and got her degree and taught for 22 years.

As a kid I always had a real affinity for education. I think that the education that we are going to be seeing over the next decade or so is going to be focused a lot on the trades because there are people who don’t want white collar jobs, they want to do things with their hands. There are people that we have to cater to as a society.

As we encourage our children to follow their hearts, there’s going to be more and more young people who are going to say, “I want to be in manufacturing.’ Our collective job as an industry is to make sure kids know about career opportunities in the woodworking industry — what they entail, what these jobs look like now and how they are changing. They need to know that woodworking jobs require computer knowledge to program a CNC machine to make a beautiful piece of furniture, a cabinet corbel or something else.

WCA: As head of Woodworking Network, you are involved in helping produce a lot of regional and national events both in the U.S. and Canada. All of them have a strong education component. How does offering these types of learning programs tie into the overall mission of Woodworking Network to serve the industry?

Fixmer: The whole premise of a media company like the Woodworking Network is to help our audience learn about new products and see new ways of doing things. We’re trying to help them become more productive and more cost-efficient in their operations. I think the role that education plays in our industry is very worthwhile because the state of which things are changing is increasing. Woodworkers need to stay on top of industry trends and they have to adjust because it’s either they move forward or move backward. They have to adapt to the new world order of manufacturing or else they are in entropy.

Our job is to deliver education and training in whatever medium our audience wants be it print, digital or events so that they can move forward. In any regard we have to understand the critical issues they are facing. What keeps them up on Sunday nights and what content can we provide to help them sleep better?

I think print and digital are great educational platforms, but nothing in my estimation replaces a face-to-face encounter between two people at a trade show. You can take all of the technology in the world and it is not going to be like sitting down over a cup of coffee with somebody and exchanging ideas. There’s something magical about that human interaction.

This also holds true for workshops. Really good, solid conference presentations are not sales pitches. They are conducted by knowledgeable professionals who will stretch the brains of the woodworkers who attend so that they go back to shops and implement concepts that make their businesses more efficient going forward. It’s an exploration of possibilities if it’s done right. I’ve lost count on how many sessions I have sat through where someone in the audience says, “I didn’t know things could be done this way.”

WCA: How does supporting the Woodwork Career Alliance dovetail with your mission to educate?

Fixmer: When Patrick Molzahn (director of the cabinetmaking program at Madison College) introduced me to the WCA and gave me a copy of the original skill standards booklet about 10 years ago, I said, “Man, you are sitting on a gold mine here.” I saw it as yeoman’s work that has to be done to create a pathway for Passport holders to increase their value proposition to their prospective, current or next employer.
I believe the WCA Is doing the right thing. They are the right entity in the right place at the right time with the right solution. For this reason, one of the criteria for the scholarship fund we started at the MiLL requires the student to have a WCA Passport.

I know it’s been a real challenge to get industry to embrace the WCA skill standards and credentialing program. Getting more woodworking companies to participate in WCA is like pouring water on a rock. It’s going to take a while for it sink in, but the industry is going to get it. The WCA Passport credentialing program is so important as a hiring tool, as a management tool, and as a training tool.

WCA: What most concerns you about the industry that gives you restless nights?

Fixmer: The woodworking industry has always had its ups and downs, without a doubt. There’s always been challenges. Our content team has focused on those challenges over the decades. But as difficult as things have gotten at times, one thing has not changed. Wood products and the woodworking industry are not going to go away. I think consumers’ affinity for wood and the creative ways in which it is utilized is going to continue on. That’s what drew me into the industry and I still feel that passion today.