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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the Cabinetmaking & Millwork program at Madison College, visit madisoncollege.edu/program/cabinetmaking-millwork.
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 email@example.com or 608-246-6842.
The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America is organizing several Accredited Skill Evaluator Training events over the next few months, including sessions during the AWFS Fair this summer in Las Vegas. Other sessions are planned for Madison, WI; and Colorado Springs, CO.
The course fee covers the half-day training session and materials plus a one-year membership as a WCA EDUcation™. EDUcation members also gain access to the WCA’s online archive of training videos and other valuable materials that they can use to develop or enhance their woodworking training programs.
ASE’s are a vital link of the WCA’s credentialing program. In most school woodworking programs, the ASE is also the instructor. An ASE is responsible for observing a person’s ability to perform a woodworking operation at a high enough caliber to earn tool points to fortify their woodworking credentials.
“The purpose of the training is for them to learn how to evaluate woodworkers using the WCA Skill Standards,” said Scott Nelson, president of the WCA. “They learn to test if a student’s or professional woodworker’s performance measures up to accepted industry standards in terms of set up, safety, part quality, etc.”
To date, more than 260 woodworking instructors and professionals have been certified as accredited skill evaluators by the WCA.
Upcoming ASE Training Sessions
February 8: The MiLL National Training Center, Colorado Springs, CO
WCA ASE training is offered as an optional upgrade on the third day of the three-day MiLL Academy event. The MiLL Academy is designed for CTE industrial arts teachers and their administrators who want to bring professional, industry-oriented programs to their classrooms. For more information and to register visit https://themillco.org/academy.
February 15: Madison Area Technical College, Madison, WI
This session was scheduled following a sold-out WCA ASE training event held at Madison College last November. The session is limited to 16 seats. For more information and to register, contact Patrick Molzahn, director of the Madison College Cabinetmaking and Millwork program at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 608-246-6842.
April 26: The MiLL National Training Center, Colorado Springs, CO
WCA ASE training is offered as an optional upgrade on the third day of the three-day MiLL Academy event. For more information and to register visit https://themillco.org/academy.
July 17-20: AWFS Fair, Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, NV
The WCA will host seven ASE training sessions in its exhibit booth during the AWFS Fair. Morning and afternoon sessions are scheduled for July 17-19. A morning session will also be offered on July 20. Each session is limited to four seats. For more information and to register, contact Scott Nelson, WCA president, at email@example.com or call 402-610-6043.
To find out how to schedule a WCA ASE Training event at your school or business, contact Scott Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 402-610-6043.
Learn more about the WCA and its credentialing program at www.woodworkcareer.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 2,000 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.
Wisconsin now has more Woodwork Career Alliance Accredited Skill Evaluators than any other state. Twelve more educators recently completed their WCA ASE training training at Madison College. These teachers are certified to evaluate and award WCA credentials to their students.
In the process, Wisconsin passed California, which now has the second most WCA ASEs in the country.
Spurred by funding from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, state high school woodworking programs can receive up to $1,000 per student for each credential awarded.
Eight high schools were represented at the Nov. 2 ASE training workshop at Madison College including Arrowhead, Deforest, Green Bay East, West, Southwest and West, Oostburg, and Wauwatosa. In addition, Mark Hawkins from Hands On Deck attended. His school, a non-profit based in in Green Bay, uses boatbuilding to teach and inspire at risk youth.
The training was led by Patrick Molzahn, Madison College instructor and WCA Chief Skill Evaluator. Due to high demand, a second training session has been scheduled at the college for February 15. Anyone interested in attending can sign up by contacting Molzahn at email@example.com or 608-246-6842.
Patrick Molzahn, director of the cabinetmaking and millwork program at Madison Area Technical College, and treasurer of the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America, has been recruited to speak at the 15th annual Executive Briefing Conference. Molzahn will discuss how wood products companies can use the WCA’s woodworking skill standards and Passport credentialing program to train and retain employees. Read more.
Molzahn’s presentation will precede a panel discussion on workforce development strategies.
North America’s largest woodworking event was a momentous occasion for the Woodwork Career Alliance.
NELLYSFORD, VA – The International Woodworking Fair, held Aug 22-25 in Atlanta, provided the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America with much cause to celebrate.
For starters, Patrick Molzahn, woodworking instructor at Madison College in Madison, WI, received the first Diamond credential ever issued in a ceremony held at WCA’s booth. In addition, the WCA was the beneficiary of a pair of fundraising activities coordinated by IWF, including a new silent auction. Approximately $8,500 was raised for the non-profit organization dedicated to developing and growing a skilled woodworking workforce.
Molzahn, a founding member of the WCA’s Board of Directors, said the experience of achieving the Diamond credential fulfilled a long-term goal. “I use the WCA credentialing system to evaluate and reward my students,” Molzahn said. “I have long felt the need to test the efficacy of our credentialing system by experiencing it from the candidate’s perspective.”
In addition to passing more than 125 skill evaluations on dozens of machines and tools, Molzahn completed projects for the three highest credentialing levels: Red, Gold, and ultimately Diamond. For his Red credential, Molzahn built a 32mm cabinet, a design he uses with his students. For Gold, he built a maple face-frame cabinet with a raised panel door. Molzahn described the Diamond project, recreating six replacement windows and an entry door for a National Historic Landmark, as “the hardest I have undertaken in my career.” The project was featured in AWI’s Design Solutions magazine.
Having successfully progressed through all stages of the WCA credentialing Passport program, Molzahn said he is confident that the WCA standards can be used effectively to measure a candidate’s woodworking abilities. “For industry, the WCA credentialing system provides a template for recognizing and rewarding one’s skills. Moreover, employers can use the credentialing ladder to develop their talent and encourage continuing education.”
Industry Shows Strong Support
IWF once again provided attendees an opportunity to financially support the WCA during the registration process. About 600 woodworking professionals generously checked off a box to donate $5 to the WCA.
IWF also designated WCA as the beneficiary of the silent auction of sports memorabilia and other collectables and valuable merchandise. The auction, presented by Expo Auctions of Sugar Hill, GA, raised nearly $5,500 for the WCA.
“I want to thank IWF for designating the WCA as the recipient of the silent auction and registration fundraisers for this year’s show,” said Scott Nelson, president of the WCA. “These contributions are extremely important to WCA and provide us with additional funds to support school woodshop programs and candidates to become credentialed woodworkers.”
Based on the tremendous success of the silent auction at IWF, plans are already in the works to organize a similar event at the AWFS Fair, July 17-20, 2019 in Las Vegas.
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 1,600 Passports, 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.