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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ron Dorn

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Learn more about WCA accredited skill evaluators and training.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more about becoming a WCA accredited skill evaluator.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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.”

Wisconsin Overtakes California for Most WCA Evaluators

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 pmolzahn@madisoncollege.edu or 608-246-6842.

Meet Mick McGowan: The WCA’s Canadian Connection

Veteran cabinetmaker and college woodworking instructor is working to launch WCA EDUcation programs in Calgary high schools.

Mick McGowan is training high school woodworking instructors in Calgary to become accredited skill evaluators through the Woodwork Career Alliance.

Mick McGowan is leading the charge to spark Canadian interest and involvement with the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America (WCA).

McGowan, an accomplished cabinetmaker, college instructor and member of the WCA Board of Directors, is working on multiple fronts to help the WCA woodworking skill standards and Passport credential program gain traction in his home province of Alberta and beyond. Ranking high among his WCA-related projects, McGowan was contracted by the Calgary Board of Education to train about a dozen high school woodworking instructors to become WCA accredited skill evaluators.

“The end game is that once all of these guys are accredited and their credentials are established, they are going to birth WCA programs in their respective high schools,” McGowan said. “Hopefully this will spread to other public and separate high schools in Calgary and the province. I find this very exciting. I think once we get the WCA established that it will really fill a big need.”

That big need to be filled is bringing more skilled talent into the woodworking industry to alleviate a critical challenge faced by wood product manufacturers throughout the United States and Canada. The WCA was established in 2007 to develop and grow a skilled workforce. It has created more than 240 performance-based skill standards used to evaluate the proficiency of student and professional Passport holders. They can grow their careers and earnings potential by earning skill credits added to their personal Cloud-based Passport account.

“What I like about the WCA program is that it’s not a training program,” McGowan said. “It’s freestanding, voluntary and established. That means you can train someone any way you want. You can use your existing training framework and use the WCA for evaluation and credentialing. It’s very flexible and establishes a coast-to-coast skills standard. A Passport holder can move from one part of the country to another and impress a potential employer with the Passport credentials they have obtained.”

Getting the Ball Rolling in Calgary
McGowan has the credentials and connections to take on the job of launching Canada’s first WCA EDUcation programs.

Calgary high school teachers James Loach, left, and Stewart Price participate in a training class taught by Mick McGowan.

McGowan has been a professional woodworker since 1976 when he began his apprenticeship and eventually achieved journeyman cabinetmaker status. He has operated his own custom woodworking business and has instructed woodworking courses at SAIT Polytechnic since 1994. For the past 12 years McGowan also has been very active with Skills Canada, helping to coordinate the annual competition in Alberta, representing the province on the national Skills Canada technical committee and as expert or trainer with Canada’s World Skills team since 2005. For his efforts, he was named 2016 Skills Canada Alberta Volunteer of the Year. His volunteerism has extended to the WCA as a board member and author of woodworking skill standards.

Just over a year ago, the Calgary Board of Education reached out to McGowan to provide professional development training for high school woodworking instructors. Woodworking is included in the Calgary public school system’s Career and Technology Foundations program.

“The school system has a lot of well-intentioned and knowledgeable woodshop instructors but few if any have actual woodworking credentials,” McGowan said. “They were hired because of their teaching credentials. Some are semi-trained woodworkers at best. They are mainly avid amateurs and many of them are quite good.”

McGowan said the monthly training program he created revolves around the WCA skill standards and Passport program. “Each of the teachers has his own Passport and is earning tool stamps,” McGowan said. “So far training has involved everything from making push blocks for a table saw on a jointer to making five-piece raised panel doors. They have all received training on table saws, chop saws, jointers, planers, table routers, handheld routers and working with veneer. Above all else, my classes emphasize safety.

“Once an instructor has been accredited as a WCA skill standard evaluator, the next step is for his program to become a WCA EDUcation member,” McGowan added. “Then he can start evaluating and credentialing student Passport holders. For kids who want to pursue woodworking, the Passport credential program should be very attractive for helping them prepare for a career.”

Travis Visscher, a high school woodworking instructor in Calgary, is among those being trained to become accredited skill evaluators of the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America.

Warren Ferguson, learning specialist for the Calgary Board of Education, said, “From my perspective, the WCA helps educators meet as a Community of Practice, thereby building our collective professional capital. Not all educators are able to participate in apprenticeship training in an institution of higher learning. This pathway, optional for teachers, is a structured system of skills development and assessment that connects well with what students are expected to know. It incorporates capacity building with external measures, which aligns with the writings of noted Harvard education professor Richard Elmore.”

Making Woodworking Cool to Youth
While many industry professionals claim it’s extremely challenging to get kids excited about woodworking, McGowan disagrees. “I don’t think its hard to get kids interested about woodworking. I think a big part of the problem is in the traditional model. We really need to have programs augmented with manufacturing automation without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

“It’s important to teach traditional skills while not ignoring automation and CNC,” McGowan continued. “I think the CNC world makes woodworking appealing to kids because it’s not just Geppetto making wood carvings.  For example, at SAIT we really emphasize the fundamentals right back to hand tool skills and proper drafting of shop drawings. Then we teach students AutoCAD and they really get hooked on that. It opens up a lot of doors so that you can segue into manufacturing automation.”

‘The Power of Persistence’
Through his involvement with Skills Canada, McGowan has been able to inform fellow members of the technical committee about the WCA. “The committee is made up of educators representing each of the provinces. They all say they see the value of the WCA, but none have acted on it yet.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned a lot about, it’s the power of persistence. Once we have established WCA high school woodshop programs in Calgary, it will be easier for others to learn from our experience. I’ve been with the WCA almost since its inception. They’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go.”