Woodwork Career Alliance to Present Three Free Seminars at AWFS Fair

Patrick Molzahn receives the first ever Diamond credential from Scott Nelson, president of the WCA at IWF 2018.

Patrick Molzahn, left, director of the Cabinetmaking & Millwork program at Madison College, and Scott Nelson, president of the WCA, will co-present a seminar on workforce development at the AWFS Fair in Las Vegas. 

Representatives of the WCA will share ideas for developing a skilled woodworking workforce.


Nellysford, VA — Owners and managers of woodworking businesses challenged by a low number of job applicants and/or high employee turnover rate are encouraged to attend free College of Woodworking Knowledge seminar sessions featuring the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America at the AWFS Fair, July 17-20 in Las Vegas.

The WCA is scheduled to participate in a pair of free seminars of the fair’s Culture & Workforce Track and one free seminar in the Teacher track.  The sessions include:

WCA – WIIFM: What’s In It For Me?
1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 17
Presenter: Patrick Molzahn, director of Cabinetmaking & Millwork, Madison College and secretary of the WCA
Whether you are in education or in industry, this session will provide ideas that you can use to implement the Woodwork Career Alliance credentialing system to create and manage a training program in your school or business. The presenter, who has used the WCA Skill Standards to shape his curriculum, will demonstrate how to improve your training program and discuss how members can take advantage of the WCA’s online library of videos, educational materials and other training resources to help you accomplish your goals faster and better.

Finding, Training and Retaining Workers
11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Thursday, July 18
Presenter: Patrick Molzahn, director of Cabinetmaking & Millwork, Madison College and secretary of the WCA
Where are all the workers? If only I could find someone with skills. These millennials just don’t have the work ethic we expect. Does this sound familiar? In a tight labor market, you need to get creative. This seminar will provide strategies to overcome many of the challenges you face recruiting and retaining quality employees.

Building a Training Program for Your Workers
3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Friday, July 19
Presenters: Scott Nelson, president of the WCA & Patrick Molzahn, director of Cabinetmaking & Millwork, Madison College and secretary of the WCA
Are you looking to create you own in-house training program? This ‘nuts & bolts’ session will show you how to get started and how you can access ready-made resources to make the job easier. The presenters will discuss how to assess new candidates on layout and measurement and how to customize your training template. Come to this session to learn:

  • How to access quality training resources;
  • How to develop and structure a training plan – including creating a template; and
  • The benefits of doing in-house training.

In addition to those three free seminars, instructors of two WCA EDUcation™ institutions will present sessions in the Teacher track. John Stearns of the MiLL is scheduled to talk on Classroom Tool Safety, Teacher Curriculum and Resources, and How to Get Money for Your Program & Spend It Wisely. Mark Smith of Reed Cutler High School will discuss AutoCAD for the Woodworking Program and Marketing Your Program: How to Get Started.

To learn more and register for AWFS Fair seminars, visit awfsfair.org.


About the Woodwork Career Alliance
The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America was founded in 2007 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation and is governed by a volunteer board of directors. The WCA’s mission is to develop and administer a unified set of Skill Standards for the wood products industry. Since 2011, WCA has developed observable and measurable performance standards and assessments for more than 240 woodworking machine operations. In addition, WCA has issued more than 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. To learn more about the WCA and how to get involved with its programs, including sponsorship opportunities, visit WoodworkCareer.org.

Sanding & Finishing Seminar Draws Huge Turnout at Madison College

Sanding & Finishing Seminar participants watch Peter Van Dyke’s keynote address.

Stiles product specialist Peter Van Dyke demonstrating how to repair a damaged platen.

Mohawk Finishing Products rep Deb Sampson conducts a seminar on touch-up and repair.

3M senior application engineer Dan Bygd explains how to properly use and care for D/A sanders.

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Over 50 individuals from industry and education gathered at a recent lunch and learn sponsored by Stiles Machinery and held at Madison College of Madison, WI. Participants spent the day learning about sanding and finishing applications, as well as networking with current students.

Stiles product specialist Peter Van Dyke kicked off the day with a presentation on widebelt sanding. Following his keynote presentation, participants were divided into three groups and viewed demonstrations. On hand was Dan Bygd of 3M Abrasives, and Deb Sampson of Mohawk Finishing Products. Bygd provided insight on abrasives and demonstrated proper use and care of D/A sanders. Sampson conducted seminars on touch-up and repair techniques. Rounding out the small group presentations, Van Dyke demonstrated veneer and seal sanding using the college’s new Homag widebelt sander.

After lunch, provided courtesy of Stiles, participants had the opportunity to learn about the latest trends in finishing. Andi Cucco and Bob Niemeyer gave an overview of the facilities for ICA Coatings in Italy. Both were on hand during the entire event to answer questions. Many of the participants went home with door prizes provided by each vendor, including one lucky winner of a D/A sander provided by 3M.

Madison College has been delivering seminars like this since 2008, when Stiles product specialist Van Dyke first offered to present to students. Since then, the college has hosted more than 20 seminars on a wide range of topics. Over the years, the seminars have grown in size and stature. For the 2019-20 school year, the Cabinetmaking program is planning at least two seminars. In September, the program will host the Festool Roadshow, and in the spring, the focus will be on edgebanding.

The Cabinetmaking program at Madison College is a Woodwork Career Alliance (WCA) EDUcation™ member and hosts several seminars annually which are open to industry members. To receive notification of future events, contact Patrick Molzahn at 608-246-6842 or email pmolzahn@madisoncollege.edu.

To learn more about the Cabinetmaking & Millwork program at Madison College, visit madisoncollege.edu/program/cabinetmaking-millwork.

Spitz Joins WCA Board of Directors

NELLYSFORD, VA – The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America welcomes Bruce Spitz to the WCA Board of Directors. Spitz, is the owner of Classic Millwork & Products of El Paso, TX.

Spitz has a long history of leadership and activism with the Architectural Woodwork Institute. He is the immediate past president of the AWI and is immediate past chairman of the AWI Quality Certification Corporation. He has also served four years as AWI treasurer and a long list of committees, including chairing the AWI Education Committee.

“As a business owner, I’m concerned about the availability of a skilled workforce for our industry,” Spitz said. “Through my involvement on the AWI Board I have had a chance to work with the WCA and watch it develop a credentialing program that can help us develop the next generation of woodworkers.”

“We’re thrilled to have Bruce on the board,” said Scott Nelson, president of the WCA. “He has been supportive of the WCA since the beginning and has created an apprenticeship program for his own business that could be very instructional for a lot of woodworking companies looking for ways to sustain a skilled workforce.”

Spritz joins a board of directors that includes:

  • Duane Griffiths, chairman, retired president Stiles University;
  • Thomas Allott, manager, Stiles University;
  • Brian Bond, professor of sustainable biomaterials, Virginia Polytechnic Institute;
  • Kristine Cox, president, Rowland Woodworking;
  • Kent Gilchrist, director of operations, Purposeful Design;
  • Greg Heuer, retired director of education of the AWI;
  • Greg Larson, owner/director of New England School of Architectural Woodworking;
  • Scott Markwood, sales representative, Hafele America;
  • Mick McGowan, cabinetmaking instructor, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology; and
  • Patrick Molzahn, program director of Cabinetmaking and Millwork, Madison Area Technical College.


About the Woodwork Career Alliance
The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America was founded in 2007 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation and is governed by a volunteer board of directors. The WCA’s mission is to develop and administer a unified set of Skill Standards for the wood products industry. Since 2011, WCA has developed observable and measurable performance standards and assessments for more than 240 woodworking machine operations. In addition, WCA has issued more than 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. To learn more about the WCA and how to get involved with its programs, including sponsorship opportunities, visit WoodworkCareer.org.


WCA Stakes a Claim in the Yukon

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The Woodwork Career Alliance’s skill standards offer a “common language” for training woodworking instructors to do their jobs better.

Gerry Quarton, the newest chief evaluator of the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America, is bringing the WCA’s skill standards and training to woodworking instructors serving some of the most remote populations of North America.

Quarton is a trades educational consultant contracted by Yukon Department of Education to update curriculums and improve safety at school woodshops throughout Yukon, a vast Canadian territory typified by rugged mountains and high plateaus. The Yukon covers more than 180,000 square miles and, according to Canada’s 2016 census, has a population of only 35,874, 25,085 of whom live in Whitehorse, the territory’s capital.

“The Yukon is still a bit of a frontier lifestyle to a large degree,” says Quarton, who was born in LLoydminster, AB, but has lived and taught woodworking in the territory on and off since the 1970s.

A Man on a Mission
in 2013, the Yukon Department of Education hired Quarton to spearhead projects to increase awareness of careers in the trades. In addition to lending his expertise to improve woodworking shops, Quarton has organized school welding and hair dressing programs. “In the case of woodworking, my first goal was to make sure the shops were safe. I found that many of the machines in the rural schools were 30 years or older. One of the first things we did was to replace table saws with SawStops.”  

Quarton notes, “There are three levels of woodshops in the Yukon. There are the urban ones at bigger schools in Whitehorse that have regular shop teachers. Then there are other schools like in Dawson City and Watson Lake where you have a somewhat bigger population and a woodshop taught by a teacher who has some training. Then we have a bunch of rural schools where the total student population from K to 12 might be 20 or 30. It’s harder to fill those woodshop positions because the teachers also have to teach two or three academic subjects. I’m using the WCA standards to create a common language and standard operating procedures to benefit all of these programs.”

Before taking the consulting job, Quarton was the woodworking instructor at F.H. Collins High School in Whitehorse for 10 years. He has also been actively involved with Skills Canada, currently as president of Skills Canada Yukon, and for many years as a member of the national technical committee and judge of the annual Skills Canada cabinetmaking competition.

Through his role with Skills Canada, Quarton got to know Mick McGowan, a woodworking instructor at SAIT Polytechnic in Calgary, AB, who is also on the Skills Canada technical committee and is a chief evaluator of the WCA. That connection led to conversations and meetings with Greg Heuer, secretary of the WCA.

“I was already familiar with the WCA because we’ve been using the Modern Cabinetmaking textbook for several years and the newest edition has the WCA logo on the cover.” Quarton says. “The whole tie-in with the text book is a real fit with using the WCA standards and credentialing program.”

Teaching the Teachers
Last October, Quarton conducted a two-day professional development workshop in Whitehorse attended by 15 woodworking teachers with a wide range of experience levels, including one from north of the Arctic Circle. The first day focused on measuring and layout. Day two was devoted to the safe operation of table saws and other standard machines based on the WCA Skill Standards.

Quarton followed that workshop with a second training session for eight of the rural school instructors in Dawson City. “It’s a repetitive activity,” Quarton says. “I like to talk about it, show them how to do it, ask them to show me how they do it and then show me again.”

Each of the 15 instructors who attended the fall 2018 workshop was awarded the WCA Sawblade Certificate. Quarton’s next goal is to train them so that they can earn their Green Credentials. For those who are successful, Quarton would like to help them achieve the Blue Credential. In addition, Quarton hopes to introduce the WCA credentialing program to high school students in the future.

“I’ve been shocked by how much the teachers keep asking for more. They are doing this voluntarily; it’s not a term of their employment.” Quarton says. “Some of these teachers are teaching science in the morning and instructing woodworking in the afternoon. They have a really wide range of interests and skill sets. I applaud them for their ability to do many things and do them as well as they can.” 

Great Lakes Woodworking Fest Calls for Project Competition Entries

Woodworkers of all ages and experience are invited to enter the Great Lakes Woodworking Festival’s Project Competition in Adrian, MI.

A panel of expert judges will rate each submitted project for function, form, design, workmanship, finish and originality. Entry categories include:

Juniors – ages 16 and under;
Masters – ages 17-54; and
Legacy: 55 and up.

The competition is meant to celebrate some of the newest and best designs from woodworkers around the great lakes region. Winners will be announced on May 5 at the festival’s main stage. Awards will go to the top three winners of each category. Cash prizes will be awarded for the first place finishers and peoples choice award.

For more information and to enter, click here. 

The Great Lakes Woodworking Festival is organized by the Sam Beauford Woodwork Institute, an EDUcation member of the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America based in Adrian. The two-day fest, May 4-5, is free and open to the public. Approximately 5,000 people attended last year’s event.

Learn more about the Great Lakes Woodworking Festival.

Meet the Newest Group of WCA Evaluators

Wisconsin recently added 10 more Woodwork Career Alliance (WCA) accredited skill evaluators to its ranks.

These woodworking teachers completed their training and accreditation at Madison College, Madison, WI. They are now certified to award WCA tool stamps and credentials to their students. Wisconsin has more than 50 ASEs, the most in the country. Spurred by funding from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, high schools in the state can receive up to $1,000 per student for each WCA credential awarded.

Seven high schools were represented from across southern Wisconsin at the training including Kenosha (Indian Trails and Bradford HS), Kettle Moraine, Belleville, Madison (La Follette HS), Beloit, and Stoughton. In addition to the high school teachers, Rick McDonough, a retired boat builder with 37 years of industry experience attended. Rick volunteers at Hands On Deck a non-profit organization based in in Green Bay, WI, which uses boatbuilding to teach and inspire at- risk youth.

Also in attendance was Bill Esler, from the Woodworking Network. Bill spoke to the attendees about the need for skilled graduates for the Wood Industry. Madison College instructor and WCA Chief Evaluator, Patrick Molzahn led the training.

For more information, contact Patrick at pmolzahn@madisoncollege.edu or 608-246-6842.

Edu-Ind Partnership Launches Woodworking Careers

Cino Sao, a St. Paul College Cabinetmaking grad, operates a Biesse machine at O'Keefe Millwork.

St. Paul grad Andrew HIlby, left, with Jeff Stanway, plant manager of O'Keefe Millwork.

St. Paul grad Andrew Hilby, left,
with Jeff Stanway, plant manager
of O'Keefe Millwork.

St. Paul grad Gabe Lancaster uses a portable router to clean up the edge of a panel.

St. Paul grad Gabe Lancaster uses a portable router to clean up the edge of a panel.

St. Paul grad Gabe Lancaster uses a portable router to clean up the edge of a panel.

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O’Keefe Millwork has found St. Paul College’s Cabinetmaking program to be a go-to source for woodworking talent.

In an era when wood product companies of all sizes, types and locales are hard-pressed to find employees, it comes as no surprise that St. Paul College’s Cabinetmaking Diploma program boasts 100 percent placement of its graduates.

“Those who want woodworking jobs are able to get jobs,” says Thomas Hlilstead, instructor of the one-year program that is an EDUcation™ member of the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America. “Demand is high right now. I have more companies calling me than I have students to fill their positions.”

One of St. Paul’s regular recruiters is O’Keefe Millwork of River Falls, WI, about a half-hour drive from St. Paul. O’Keefe, a member of the Architectural Woodwork Institute, employs nearly 60 people to manufacture architectural millwork, cabinetry and custom fixtures.

“I’d hire Tom’s entire class if I could,” says Jeff Stanway, plant manager of O’Keefe. “We’re always looking for employees. We could do more work right now if we could get more of the right people.”

Inside St. Paul’s Cabinetmaking Program
The average age of students enrolled in the St. Paul College Cabinetmaking program is 29. “We get some right out of high school and some retirees who are just looking to hone their woodworking skills, not to find employment,” Hillstead says. “Most of my students have been in the workforce. Many of them have a four-year college degree, but few took woodworking courses in high school. They come here looking to go in a different direction.”

The St. Paul Cabinetmaking program is designed to expose students to a wide-range of tools and equipment used by cabinet manufacturers, including portable power tools, table saws, edgebanders and CNC routers.

“We walk a fine line between what I call modern cabinetmaking and traditional cabinetmaking,” Hillstead says. “O’Keefe is an example of a shop with a lot of technology. They move a lot of products through their plant. Some of the other shops that hire my students are more traditional. They may be a two- or three-person maker’s-type shop where they make custom furniture pieces, and things like that. “My goal is that students leave here with enough skill sets to succeed in both of those environments.”

“When it comes to hands-on skills, I want to teach them about safety but I want them to be comfortable and know their limitations, too,” Hillstead adds. “We also work on the soft skills that will make them a good employee.”  

Stanway says O’Keefe currently employs at least five graduates of Hillstead’s program. “They arrived easier to train than most of the people we hire off the street,” Stanway says. “They have chosen woodworking as a career and have gotten a good, well-rounded introduction to what the wood industry is all about. They’ve learned everything from how to read a tape measure all the way to being introduced to CNC.”

Stanway cites a couple of examples of O’Keefe employees who have more quickly advanced through the ranks because of the skills they learned at St. Paul College. “One started out in 2013 in cabinet assembly, but soon moved into custom assembly is now a lead builder. Another started in 2016 and now works in our custom department. We put in a new Homag widebelt sander a year-and-a-half ago and he’s one of the operators. He’s doing a great job,” Stanway says.

The WCA Connection
Hillstead has been a WCA accredited skill evaluator since 2012. Since then, he has evolved his curriculum by integrating the WCA Skills Standards and credentialing program.

“This school year we’ve redesigned the program to fully use the WCA Skill Standards as the basis for everything that the students learn. As they learn to run a boring machine, let’s say, I print out the sheets from the WCA Skill Standards on boring machines so that they can see exactly what’s expected to operate them.”

Hillstead says each student is required to purchase a WCA Passport membership at the start of the Fall semester. “They get tested to earn their Sawblade certificate in the fall on things like measurement, layout, the table saw, jointer, drill press, and sanding. They can be evaluated on more, but I don’t make it a requirement,” Hillstead says.

The Spring semester includes a class called Industrial Machining Methods. “This is where we get into some of the non-traditional equipment like edgebanders, CNC routers and the dowel insertion machine. Toward the end of the semester, a student can request to be evaluated on particular machine operations to earn additional tool stamps. I tell my students that their WCA credentials will give them a leg up in the job market,” Hillstead says.

“I think the WCA is a great program, for sure,” says Stanway, who is a member of the St. Paul College Cabinetmaking program advisory board. “We need more plant managers and department supervisors in the future and this program offers a great start.”

“O’Keefe is only one of the shops that we deal with, but they’ve been an awesome partner. They’ve been very supportive of our program including donating sheet goods and other materials, and organizing tours of their shop for our students,” Hillstead says. “Through his involvement on our advisory board, Jeff has helped guide our program to what the industry needs, and he’s also been a great advocate of our program and our involvement with the WCA.”

Welcome New Members & Renewed Sponsors!

The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America is pleased to welcome 17 new EDUcation™ member schools, three new MANufacturing members  and five INDustry™ Sponsors. We also welcome back a baker’s dozen sponsors for a second year.

Thank you for your membership and support!

EDUcation™ Members

Arrowhead High School, Hartland, WI
Belleville High School, Belleville, WI
Bradford High School, Kenosha, WI
Des Moines East High School, Des Moines, IA
Franklin High School, Portland, OR
Havelock High School, New Bern, NC
Indian Trail High School, Kenosha, WI
Jacksboro ISD, Jacksboro, TX
New Bern High School, New Bern, NC
Pisgah High School, Waynesville, NC
Pueblo County High School, Pueblo, CO
Redmond High School, Redmond, OR
Reynolds High School, Troutdale, OR
Smoky Mountain High School, Sylva, NC
Tremper High School, Kenosha, WI
Wolfe County High School, Campton, KY
Yukon Education, Whitehorse, Yukon Territory

Find a WCA EDUcation™ woodworking program in your area.

MANufacturing™ Members
California Designers Choice Custom Cabinetry, Camarillo, CA
Danlee Wood Products – Forreston, IL
Multi-Housing Depot – Burlington, NJ

New INDustry™ Gold Sponsors
Gemini Coatings
, Reno, OK
Pro-Ply Custom Plywood, Brampton, ON
, Duluth, GA
Stiles Machinery, Grand Rapids, MI

New INDustry™ Silver Sponsors
Sorrelli Woodwork Consultants,
Brooklyn, NY
Weima North America, Fort Mill, SC

INDustry™ Gold Sponsor Renewals
Atlantic Plywood, Woburn, MA
Columbia Forest Products, Greensboro, NC
Daniels-Olsen, A Metro Hardwoods Company, Sioux Falls, SD
Intermountain Wood Products, Salt Lake City, UT
M.L. Campbell, Ft. Erie, ON
Milesi Wood Coatings, Charlotte, NC
North American Building Material Distribution Association (NBMDA), Chicago, IL
OHARCO, Lincoln, NE
Rev-A-Shelf, Louisville, KY
Web Don, Charlotte, NC
Wurth Group North America, Ramsey, NJ

INDustry™ Silver Sponsor Renewals
Suwanee, GA
Lutz Woodworks, Wylie, TX

View all WCA INDustry™ Sponsors & Supporters

President’s Message: Shifting into High Gear

I hope everyone had a wonderful Holiday Season and is recharged to embark on a prosperous 2019. We at the Woodwork Career Alliance are excited about the New Year and the opportunity to continue building on the momentum we experienced in 2018.

Here’s a quick review of some of the WCA’s 2018 highlights.

  • We are proud that 115 schools across the United States and Canada renewed their WCA EDUcation™ membership and are actively entering students into our credential program.
  • WCA added 480 new candidates and issued 167 certificates or credentials in 2018. We entered this year with over 2,100 students, teachers and professional woodworkers enrolled in the credentialing program that we launched in 2013.
  • In the month of November alone, we trained 20 new teachers as Accredited Skill Evaluators (ASE) at three separate trainings in Wisconsin, North Carolina and Colorado. We now have more than 260 ASEs, a number that we will add to through upcoming trainings at Madison College, The MiLL and the AWFS Fair. The full schedule and registration details are included in this edition of Pathways.
  • Last year, WCA introduced the INDustry™ Sponsorship program, giving manufacturers and distributors of woodworking machinery and supplies an opportunity to support WCA’s credentialing programs and industry outreach activities. I am pleased to report that we just successfully concluded our first round of sponsorship renewals. I want to personally welcome back Atlantic Plywood, Columbia Forest Products, Intermountain Wood Products, M.L. Campbell, Milesi Wood Coatings, NBMDA, OHARCO, Rev-A-Shelf, Web Don, and Wurth Group as Gold Sponsors and Brookhuis and Lutz Woodworks as Silver Sponsors. Thanks to all of our sponsors for your continued support!

Looking ahead to the AWFS Fair this July, WCA will have a Learning Center and will introduce our new WCA Cell Manufacturing 4.0. Please plan to stop by Booth 10268.

Much more to come!

Scott Nelson
Woodwork Career Alliance of North America


Championing Woodworking Skills & Careers

The co-owner of Rowland Woodworking shares her passion for SkillsUSA and the Woodwork Career Alliance.

Kristine Cox, co-owner of Rowland Woodworking of High Point, NC, is not one to sit on the sidelines. Though helping her husband Jeff run an architectural woodworking company is demanding, she still manages to make time to champion industry causes through her involvement with the Architectural Woodwork Institute and the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America. She has served on the board of directors, including stints as president, for both AWI national and the Carolinas Chapter of AWI. After completing her term as president of AWI in 2017, Cox became a board member of the WCA.

Through her participation with AWI and now WCA, Cox remains actively involved with the annual SkillsUSA Cabinetmaking competition on both the state and national levels. For more than a decade she has helped coordinate the annual North Carolina contest for high school students, the winner of which represents the Tar Heel state in the national SkillsUSA competition. She also chairs the AWI’s SkillsUSA Committee, which along with the WCA, partners with SkillsUSA to organize the national Cabinetmaking Championship held each June in Louisville, KY.

Cox views SkillsUSA and its mission to prepare students for careers in the skilled trades – including woodworking – as a worthy organization to support to address the manufacturing skills gap head-on.

“Supporting our high school woodworking programs and students through SkillsUSA is kind of a way of giving back,” Cox says. “I quickly found out that this is something I have a real passion for. SkillsUSA is a great platform for getting the word out to the kids, parents, teachers and guidance counselors that we have good-paying jobs. We have careers. It might be in the shop running a CNC machine or in the office designing products. It could be in sales for a supplier member or a machine tech or even designing machines. If we don’t tell them about the opportunities in our big, wide industry, who will? The schools are certainly not going to be pushing them to work in our industry on their own.

“I’m not going to say it’s not selfish of me,” Cox continues. “But if one young person goes into our field, then it’s worth it. In fact, I was actually lucky enough to recently hire somebody who had competed in SkillsUSA.”

A Good Problem to Have
The 2018 North Carolina SkillsUSA Cabinetmaking competition, held at the Greensboro Coliseum, maxed out at 20 high school contestants. Cox and her fellow AWI Carolinas Chapter committee members are scrambling to find ways to accommodate future growth of the competition.

“We’ve already reduced the number of students any school can bring to the state championship,” Cox says. “Now we’re starting to look at ways to have a pre-competition to narrow the field because we don’t have enough space required for each contestant’s individual work area and the bigger equipment they share.”

The Carolinas Chapter donates funds to stage the state’s SkillsUSA Cabinetmaking competition. The chapter also purchased 20 sets of tools that includes a portable drill, sander, nail gun, etc., used by the contestants. Rowland Woodworking not only stores the tools, the company also made workbenches for the contest and lends four of its table saws and a couple of miter boxes for the competition.

The Carolina Chapter SkillsUSA committee also solicits donations of materials, supplies and equipment from area woodworking industry companies for the contest. She points to a CNC router and a dovetail key router machine loaned respectively by ShopBot Tools and Hoffmann Machinery as examples of machinery that parents, teachers and other spectators don’t usually see. “Having this technology available brings some wow factor to the competition,” she says.

Cox says she enjoys attending the annual SkillsUSA national competition. “I like to watch the kids compete, but I also like to go to nationals because I can see what it takes for a contestant to be successful. Our goal is to give our students every advantage we can by making our state’s projects look and feel like the national contest.”

Cox and Ben Houston, territory manager of Salice, who she describes as “my right-hand man,” collaborate on designing the cabinetry project contestants build under the added stress of time limits. “We’ll meet for lunch and literally draw up an idea on a napkin. Then I’ll try to put into AutoCAD and sometimes learn that it’s too complicated because of the joinery, equipment that is needed, or would take too long to construct.”

Ultimately, Cox says, “We want to make the project challenging enough so that not every kid can finish it. We want to make them demonstrate their soft skills as well as machine and cabinetmaking skills. They have to demonstrate critical thinking and problem solving. If they don’t use all of the soft skills that they are learning in the SkillsUSA program, they are going to have real problems.”

Cox’s reconnaissance paid off big dividends at the 2018 SkillsUSA competition. Ravindra Dave of Cary High School of Cary, NC, took the bronze medal. In addition, Hunter Thompson, who won the gold medal at the 2016 SkillsUSA competition while still a student at Cedar Ridge High School of Hillsborough, was one of two SkillsUSA alumni to compete for the honor of representing the United States in the biennial WorldSkills contest this August in Kazan, Russia.

“I was as proud as any parent to see Hunter win a gold medal as a senior in high school,” Cox says. “I’m sad he didn’t make it to WorldSkills, but he did a great job.”

The SkillsUSA-WCA Connection
Cox’s affiliation with SkillsUSA brought her in close contact with the WCA and led her to volunteer for a seat on the WCA Board of Directors. Kent Gilchrist, a member of the AWI SkillsUSA committee, also sits on the WCA Board of Directors. Gilchrist designs the project that challenges the contestant’s skills at the national SkillsUSA Cabinetmaking competition.

The fact that many of the high schools that participate in North Carolina’s SkillsUSA competition are EDUcation™ members of the WCA further connects Cox to both non-profit groups.

“I think the WCA has a great program,” Cox says. “We are not a WCA MANufacturer member yet, but I do intend to change that. Between our workload and not having someone in the shop to make it happen, I really haven’t been able to do anything. But I want to bring the WCA credentialing program into our shop. In the meantime, I try to make sure that our WCA schools have what they need.”

As a recent show of her support for the WCA, Cox partnered with Dan Kern, an instructor at East and West Montgomery High Schools, to develop programming for teachers of woodworking and construction programs attending North Carolina’s 2018 Career and Technical Education Summer Conference. Kern also happens to be an accredited chief evaluator of the WCA.

“Dan took over the CTE conference planning last year,” Cox says. “The two of us sat down and brainstormed ideas of what would be beneficial for the teachers in terms of training and information.”

One of the outcomes of the brainstorming session was assembling a tour of several area wood industry facilities including Columbia Panel, Hafele America and Herzog Veneers, plus the Bienenstock Furniture Library. Another major component of the last summer’s CTE program for woodworking teachers was hands-on training at Rowland Woodworking conducted by Kern. The training was designed to help participating teachers sharpen their woodworking skills.

Cox says its likely that Kern and her will build on the success of last year’s program this summer. “We had some high school carpentry teachers participate in the tour last year. We’ve talked about the possibility of offering some woodworking training at our shop to them as well because there is some crossover,” Cox adds.

“It wasn’t too awfully inconvenient to offer space for the instructor training at our shop,” Cox says. “But even if it was inconvenient, it wouldn’t matter, because the WCA is a good program to improve our industry. As long as they want to come here, they have a place.”