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.


Report from WorldSkills in Russia

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

After over a year of preparation for WorldSkills, the United States sent a team of 22 competitors to Kazan, Russia, in August to compete in their respective trades. Ethan Harrison, from Blackfoot, ID, represented Team USA in Cabinetmaking.

To prepare for the event, Ethan spent 9 months at Madison College under the tutelage of his advisor, Jeff Molzahn. Ethan’s curiosity and discipline were a good match for our self-directed curriculum. He was able to work with minimal supervision, and quickly mastered the competencies. Within weeks he was programming and running our CNC router.

After completing his machine certifications, Ethan built several projects, and refined his skills while increasing his knowledge of wood and wood products. He even left with the Woodwork Career Alliance’s green credential.

In Kazan, Ethan faced competitors from over 30 countries. The competition was intense, and while Ethan did not end up on the podium, he learned many valuable lessons from the experience. In addition, he assembled a network of friends from all over the globe.

After the dust settles, Ethan will travel to Lima, Peru, to complete a two-year missionary assignment. His long-term goal is to continue to pursue a career in the wood industry by studying Architectural Manufacturing Management, with the ultimate dream of owning his own business someday.

Related Article:

AWI Board of Directors Appoints Hague New Executive VP

Doug Hague, incoming executive vice president of the AWI

The Architectural Woodwork Institute Board of Directors named Doug Hague to succeed Philip Duvic as AWI executive vice president effective Jan. 1, 2020. Duvic, who previously announced his retirement, has been associated with AWI since November 2000 and was appointed as executive vice president in 2005.

Search & Selection
Prior to the board’s vote, Doug Mock, chair of the EVP Search Committee, reported that nearly 80 applications were received and reviewed in the evaluation process which resulted in a selection of three qualified finalist EVP candidates. Each of the three finalist candidates was interviewed by the EVP Search Committee in face-to-face meetings in early August. At the conclusion of those interviews, the EVP Search Committee selected Hague as its recommended EVP candidate for consideration by the AWI Board of Directors.

“The EVP Search Committee vetted dozens of applications and I am pleased that Doug Hague’s name rose to the top of the list. AWI’s future leadership is now secure and I am so very grateful that Doug stepped forward in this opportunity. I am confident that Doug will lead AWI and our staff team to new heights of superlative performance with unsurpassed outcomes,” Duvic.

In accepting the EVP appointment, Hague said, “It is an honor to be selected for this position. This tremendous opportunity to lead our association that is recognized as a global leader is both exhilarating and a big responsibility. I look forward to engaging members so they can experience the value of their association membership. AWI has so much to offer and I am grateful to be a part of it. I thank Phil for his 15 years of leadership and am eager to learn during the transition process. My ability to make change in the education area was primarily due to the support of our volunteers, Board of Directors leadership, and staff. I aim for the same support in this new role to elevate our association to new heights.”

Hague joined the AWI national staff as education director on July 1, 2016. In that capacity, he has focused on upgrading AWI’s core seminars, contributed fresh fund-raising ideas to the AWI Education Foundation, introduced students to AWI members at selected national events, and began development of a revolutionary digital learning portal to enhance AWI members’ learning opportunities. A Pittsburg State University (PSU) graduate with a BST in Wood Technology and a MS in Career and Technical Education, Hague is also a former PSU associate professor. While employed in the architectural woodwork industry, Hague participated in all areas of fabrication from design and sales to final installation. His primary industry roles were office related: Estimating, Project Management, Drafting/Engineering, and CNC programming — specializations which are key components among AWI’s current education offerings for woodworkers.

Click here to read the cover story in the October edition of NewsBriefs for details about Doug’s experience in the woodwork industry.

Commencing October 1st and extending through December, Duvic and Hague will be working together to ensure a successful transition and hand-off for Hague to assume his new role as the AWI executive vice president.

NC Woodshop Teachers Go to Summer School

Woodworking track of the state’s annual Career and Technical Education Summer Conference includes a strong dose of the Woodwork Career Alliance’s credentialing program.

Dan Kern, right, with Roy Underwood, host of PBS’ The Woodwright’s Shop.

Dan Kern, woodworking instructor of Montgomery County high schools in North Carolina, is walking the talk. Not only is the holder of Woodwork Career Alliance Passport #110 employing the WCA skill standards to teach his students how to safely craft wood, he’s personally advancing his way through the WCA’s five-level credentialing system.

“Whenever I first discuss the WCA skill standards and credentialing system with my introductory woodworking class students, I’m sure to get asked what level I’m at,” said Kern. Now in his 16th year of teaching, Kern said he is happy to tell his inquisitive students that he recently completed his blue credential and is now working toward achieving the red patch, the third rung of the WCA credentialing ladder.

Kern’s involvement with WCA extends well beyond being a Passport holder in good standing. He was certified as a WCA accredited skill evaluator (ASE) in 2012 and successfully completed a special training session at the 2018 International Woodworking Fair to become WCA chief evaluator for North Carolina. In recent years, Kern has also taken on a leadership role to coordinate programming for the woodworking track of the annual North Carolina Career and Technical Summer Conference. As was the case last year, Kern integrated hands-on WCA credentialing into the CTE Summer Conference held July 15-18 in and around Greensboro.

More specifically, Kern and eight of his peers – all of them WCA Passport holders and most of them WCA ASEs – earned tool points by taking a wide range of woodworking skill tests at Rowland Woodworking’s shop in High Point.

“We basically took turns evaluating each other on different machine operations,” Kern said. “I was among the group of guys who was working on the blue credential. We worked on setup and operation of a sliding table saw, jointer, side stroke sander and more. The other group of teachers were working on green. They worked on a stationary table saw, bandsaw and miter saw.”

Following the evaluations, the instructors adjourned from the shop to Rowland Woodworking’s conference room equipped with A/V presentation tools. “I showed them how easy it is to buy the WCA skill points on the WCA’s website and then instructors took turns inputting the data of other instructors into the WCA’s registry,” an online database of each Passport holder’s achievements. “The Passport database is a key part of the WCA,” Kern said. “A lot of educators get bogged down by the workday. My goal was to show them how to streamline the process. Once you get familiar with the system, it’s not so intimidating.”

NC woodshop instructors took turns evaluating each other for WCA skill points at Rowland Woodworking’s plant.

More Summer CTE Conference Highlights
The WCA evaluation day was but one of the many highlights during the woodworking track that included a larger audience of woodworking instructors who are not active WCA Passport users as well as instructors involved in teaching carpentry and other trades. Kern shared some of the other programs that took place, including:

  • A tour of Stiles Machinery’s showroom in High Point, which features a large array of under-power automated woodworking machinery, including robotic work cells.
  • CNC tips and tricks from T.J. Christensen of ShopBot. “A lot of our state’s high schools, including ours, have CNC routers,” Kern said. “One of the five sessions focused on CNC shortcuts for ShopBot. That was good for me because it makes me more efficient in the shop. Being able to show students shortcuts to save time on programming and setup allows us to accomplish more.”
  • A pair of engaging presentations by Roy Underhill, iconic longtime host of the Woodwright’s Shop on PBS. “His first talk was on how to hold the attention of all of the different people in your audience when your giving a presentation. Then he showed us all of these cool woodworking projects that he has done. Roy was entertaining and energizing,” Kern said. “It was very interesting that we went from touring Stiles Machinery where they had four robotic setups and learning lots of hands-on CNC stuff from ShopBot to listening to a woodworking icon who uses a hand plane and other traditional woodworking tools. It really pointed out the diversity of our craft.”
  • Brainstorming ideas to develop what Kern called a “level one” SkillsUSA competition for the state. Kristine Cox, co-owner of Rowland Woodworking, who helps organize the state’s annual SkillsUSA competition, facilitated the discussion. “Currently we have regional and state competitions for SkillsUSA,” Kern said. “Having a level one contest would allow us to introduce more students to SkillsUSA. The level one contest would involve a less intricate and time-consuming project than the state competition requires.”
  • Cox also presented an overview of the Architectural Woodwork Standards that were updated last year.
  • Hearing a presentation by Christopher Randall, woodworking instructor of Asheville High School, about his lesson plan for teaching students how to use hand tools and carve wood. “It’s something he came up with because it teaches hand tool skills and safety, as well as creative ways to utilize scraps. He does it for his entry-level students,” Kern said.  These two (above and below) paragraphs seem a bit disconnected.
  • Learning what’s new in water-based finishing from Mike Ziegler of Klingspor. “There’s always something new happening with finishing, so this is always a topic of interest,” Kern said.

CTE Center to Open in January
Looking ahead, Kern, who started West Montgomery High School’s woodworking program in 2005, said he is looking forward to the opening of a new 68,000-square-foot Career and Technical Career Center in January. The CTE Center will include a 1,600-square-foot “state-of-the-art woodshop,” he said.  “It will also have a 1,000-square-foot mezzanine above it and a 600-square-foot classroom.”

NC woodworking instructors gather outside of Rowland Woodworking during Summer CTE conference.

The CTE center shares a 70-plus-acre plot with the still under construction Central Montgomery High School, both part of a $70 million construction project. More than 1,000 students currently attending East or West Montgomery High Schools will begin attending the new school in August 2020. In a corresponding move, the half-century-old East and West Montgomery High Schools will be closed.

The CTE center is located adjacent to Montgomery Community College, which will also offer classes at the facility. In addition to woodworking, the CTE center will offer courses in EMT, agricultural sciences, welding, industrial systems, forestry and more.

The new woodshop will be a welcomed departure from the antiquated quarters at East and West Montgomery High Schools, Kern said. “At our current shops, we were limited because we didn’t have three-phase power. At the CTE center we’ll have four new machines including a widebelt sander, an industrial planer, a big jointer and an oscillating side stroke sander.”

Kern said the WCA skill standards and Sawblade certificate will continue to be the foundation of his course curriculum.

“North Carolina has adopted WCA as the official certification for our woodworking classes. I require all of the students in my second level class to be evaluated and tested for their Sawblade certificate and it’s an option for students in my introductory class. We try to write the curriculum and make the course blueprint around the WCA skill standards. Our first objective is safety then we focus on the importance of accurate measurements. We have tape measures and calipers out the first week so that students can learn about that in the introductory class. For my Sawblade certification I try to have a project that involves all of the Sawblade core skills – table saw, ripping, drilling to a controlled depth and sanding flat surfaces, joining the first edge, etc.”

Kern said he typically teaches up to 75 kids each semester spread over four classes. “The state supports two semesters: woodworking one and woodworking two. We have a curriculum for woodworking three that’s combined with my level two class and allows more advanced students to work independently. After they complete those three, we offer an advanced study session which requires the student to create a portfolio, maintain a journal of their work, complete a final project and give a presentation at the end of the semester. I’ve had a lot of success with that; it’s really cool. I usually get a few kids each semester and they work almost exclusively independently. They have to submit a product they designed early in the school year and then build it. Beyond that we support apprenticeship opportunities. Last year we had a young man placed in a furniture factory.”

Kern also works with his best and most motivated students to participate in the North Carolina SkillsUSA competition. “We won state in 2011 and 2017, so those kids went to the national SkillsUSA competition.”

On a personal note, Kern said that while he is only beginning to work on his red credential, he already has his sights on gold and ultimately diamond.

“I would love to achieve diamond; that’s my ultimate goal. I still need lots of tool points. I’ve been talking about meeting up with other CTE teachers located a couple of counties away on Saturdays to try to work toward that.”

Jefferson Millwork Woodworker Becomes First Pro to Earn WCA Red Credential

Richard Memory, apprentice woodworker at Jefferson Millwork & Design, with the fabric rack he designed and fabricated for his WCA red credential project.

STERLING, Va. – Richard Memory, an apprentice woodworker at Jefferson Millwork & Design, was recently awarded the red credential from the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America. He is the first professional woodworker to achieve the red credential, the third level of the WCA’s credentialing Passport program.

Memory, who previously earned his green and blue WCA credentials at Jefferson Millwork, successfully completed evaluation testing on a variety of woodworking operations and designed and made a fabric storage rack to meet the project requirement for the red credential. He has now amassed more than 120 tool points, all of which are documented in the online registry maintained by the WCA.

“I’m very honored and pretty proud of this achievement,” Memory said. “I definitely like the structured approach of the WCA program. It sets measurable objectives that allow me to point to actual things I can say I have done, especially when it comes to the fabric rack that I built for the shop. It’s also great the way Jefferson has structured raises for me based on growing my credentials.”

Chuck Buck, shop foreman of Jefferson Millwork, a member of the Architectural Woodwork Institute, lauded Memory for his dedication to learning new skills and the progress he has made since he began participating in the company’s apprentice woodworker program.

“I guided Richard through removing all guides and bearings,” Buck said. “He cleaned, inspected and replaced bearings as needed. He learned how to choose the proper blade and install it correctly including adjusting it to proper blade tension, adjusting the camber to seat the blade properly, and setting all of the guides and bearings to proper alignment. By the time he completed the skill assessments for the bandsaw, he had a better understanding and respect for the versatility of this machine.”

Buck said Jefferson Millwork began structuring its apprenticeship program around the WCA’s industry-wide recognized skill standards just over two years ago. “I honestly remember going into this being a little skeptical,” said Buck, who supervises a crew of 20 production employees. “I was worried it was going to be a time dissolver for me. Instead, I found that using the WCA skill standards and credentialing system has really helped me evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of individual employees. Because the skill standards are written out, it allows me to focus my concentration on training and evaluating the skills of individual employees. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”

“When Richard completes his gold credential, he will begin earning a bench mechanic wage,” Buck added. “It’s a win-win for the both the employee and the company.”

Richard Memory poses with his WCA red credential certificate and Chuck Buck, shop foreman at Jefferson Millwork & Design.

Memory said he is motivated to go for his gold credential and now looks at woodworking as a career instead of just as a job. “I appreciate the aggregate skills I have learned about different types of machines and woodworking in general. It has made me more confident to do things on my own. I’ve even taken up woodworking as a hobby. It’s suddenly a fulfilling and interesting thing to do.”

Scott Nelson, president of the WCA, applauded Memory for his achievement and Jefferson Millwork for being an early adopter of the WCA’s credentialing Passport program. “I want to congratulate Richard for being the first woodworking professional to earn the red credential and thank Jefferson Millwork for making it happen,” Nelson said. “Jefferson was one of the first companies to sign up as a MANufacturing member when we created that category a few years ago. Hopefully other woodworking companies will take note and see the benefits of integrating the WCA skill standards and credentialing program to not only train, but retain employees by offering them a pathway to rewarding woodworking careers.”


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 100 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.

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.

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