WCA ‘Back in Action’ at AWFS Fair

The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America made the most of its participation at the AWFS Fair, the first in-person nati0nal woodworking trade show in two years.

As Scott Nelson was happy to attest, “It was wonderful to be back in action and to meet face-to-face with industry and new industry colleagues, educators, and sponsors. While COVID impacted the attendance, particularly from Canadians, it did not dampen the great enthusiasm among those who participated in the show.”

Among the highlights, the WCA presented “Building a Training Program for Your Woodworkers,” a 2.5-hour workshop attended by nearly 60 woodworking executives.  The lively back-and-forth discussion was led by Bruce Spitz, a member of WCA’s board of directors, right, and Scott Nelson, president of the WCA. Each attendee left the session armed with a training template unique to his or her company’s needs that was created during the hands-on portion of the program.

The AWFS Fair partnered with Expo Auctions to conduct a silent auction during the four-day show. The auction, featuring signed sports collectibles, framed artwork, get-away trips, and more raised money for the WCA’s EDUcation fund and industry outreach programs.

In addition to learning about the WCA’s credentialing programs and skill standards, visitors to the WCA’s booth had the opportunity to test their finishing skills using the SimSpary virtual reality module. The interactive demonstrations were facilitated by Mimbus, a gold sponsor of the WCA,

WCA President Talks Training, Credentialing and More

The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America heads into the 2020s building on the solid foundation of its Passport credentialing program that is widely recognized throughout the United States and Canada.

In a recent free-wielding phone interview, Scott Nelson, president of the WCA, discussed the North American wood product industry’s ongoing challenge to recruit, train and retain skilled employees. He also provided his thoughts on how companies can use the WCA’s credentialing program to meet those multiple challenges and discussed plans for rolling out WCA 4.0 to accredit employees who work in manufacturing cells.

Rich Christianson: Since its inception in 2007, the Woodwork Career Alliance has developed more than 300 woodworking skill standards and grown its database of registered Passport holders to nearly 2,600. At long last, the woodworking industry has a credentialing program to rival metal working, automotive, welding and other skilled trades. With those accomplishments as a backdrop, what do you view as the WCA’s biggest achievement in 2019?

I am extremely gratified by the increased use of the WCA credentialing program.

Scott Nelson: I am extremely gratified by the increased use of the WCA credentialing program. Last year we added a record 507 new individual Passport members. Even more telling, we issued 418 credentials representing a 50 percent increase. It’s fantastic that we’re finally starting to see the number of new credentials approaching the number of people who are issued Passports. That means a greater percentage of Passport holders are being tested to the Skill Standar

Christianson: Who were these credentials issued to last year?

Nelson: The vast majority of the credentials were awarded to high school students for earning their Sawblade Certificate. But we’re also seeing a smaller, yet still healthy, increase in professional accreditations.

On the high school level, we’re seeing more woodworking teachers starting to test their kids. It’s one thing for instructors to just sign up their students for WCA Passports, but it’s another for them to take the time to administer the skill evaluations, record the individual student’s tool points and see that their qualified students take the online test to ultimately receive their Sawblade Certificate.

Christianson: Why do you think more high school woodworking instructors are making the effort to test their students now? What’s changed?

Nelson: First, I think more teachers are prioritizing evaluations and testing for the Sawblade Certificate as part of their lesson plans and schedules. It takes time to do any of those tests. They have to plan for it and until they’ve done it the first time, they really don’t know how long it takes. Once they become familiar with how it works and how long it takes, they are able to make it part of their day-to-day curriculum.

Second, we’ve seen a lot of credentialing activity in Wisconsin where public high school programs qualify for special funding based on national certification, which is what the WCA is all about. Colorado also is putting this type of government reimbursement program in place, again based on being affiliated with a recognized certification organization like the WCA. These funds are very important for supporting those high school programs and keeping them viable in an era when woodworking programs are more likely to be reduced or eliminated than improved or started. Hopefully we’ll see more states adopt this type of funding model in the next few years.

In some ways, we’re in a race against time. On one hand, I think more and more schools are realizing the benefit of being an EDUcation member of the WCA. It brings structure and additional legitimacy to being part of a program that was created with industry needs in mind. Unfortunately, while we gained nearly 30 new high school programs last year, we lost a similar number. In most cases, the program is no longer there. A lot of times the woodshop teacher leaves or retires and the school can’t find a replacement because most require industrial arts teachers to have a teaching certificate. There just aren’t enough teachers with woodworking experience to fill the gaps.

Christianson: You mentioned that WCA has made inroads among woodworking professionals. How so?

It takes a dedicated effort to create an effective formal training program. But once it’s in place, it can be used over and over again. There’s a long-term payoff.

Nelson: Getting industry participation has been a tough nut to crack, but we are making gains as attested by the 54 green credentials we issued in 2019. Our first challenge has been to make industry aware of the WCA credentialing program and how they can use it to develop in-house training programs for new and current employees. Then, companies have to be willing to put in the time. Every plant has a different set of circumstances so consequently there has to be a champion in each plant for it to work. It takes a dedicated effort to create an effective formal training program. But once it’s in place, it can be used over and over again. There’s a long-term payoff.

A common concern among woodworking companies is the fear of “If I train them, they’ll leave.” That’s a big problem for the industry and the WCA. They are afraid to spend the time and money to train somebody, give him a credential and then maybe see that person go work for the shop next door for more money. That’s human nature and they have to get over that.

Companies also have to understand that they may not have the right opening for someone who has acquired new skill sets from their training but the other company might have an opening. So, the employee is going to leave for a better opportunity. That’s just the way it is.

Christianson: How can the WCA credentialing program help a company retain employees they train?

Nelson: A good real-world example of how the WCA standards can be used by industry is Jefferson Millwork. They were pioneers in adopting the WCA credentialing program not only to structure training for new hires, but to create an incentive program that ties pay raises to employees who grow their credentials. Last fall, Jefferson was the first woodworking company to award the red credential to an employee. They proved it can be done. We can only hope that other woodworking companies are paying attention.

Having a good training program in your plant is always going to increase your bottom line because of greater productivity, fewer mistakes and fewer do-overs.

I honestly don’t understand how companies can skimp when it comes to training their employees. Having a good training program in your plant is always going to increase your bottom line because of greater productivity, fewer mistakes and fewer do-overs. When you have someone coming in fresh off the street you have to teach them the basics. They have to understand what your products are, what their characteristics are, why controlling moisture is important, the machines and tools you are working with, and how to read a tape measure. These are basic things that have to be taught. Just having Joe follow John around for six months is not enough. You need a formal training program so that the new hire knows this week we’re covering this, in week two we’re going to cover this, in week three we’re going to cover that.

It all starts with a company’s culture. If you want an employee to stay, you need your training program to be tied to a career path for them. But an employer can’t tell the employee what it means to go from A to Z if the company doesn’t have a formal system in place for evaluating the employee’s progress. Again, this is where the WCA comes in.

Christianson: What’s on tap for the WCA in 2020?

Nelson: At last year’s AWFS Fair we announced plans to develop the WCA 4.0 credentialing program to complement our current Passport program. We recognize that there are a lot of woodworkers who are working in cell-based manufacturing environments who would have a hard time earning credentials based on our current tool points system. The basic concept of WCA 4.0 is to help an employee develop their skills within their cell and then be cross-trained to work in additional cells. Theoretically the employer would compensate the worker based on how much value they are able to add in terms of productivity, maintenance, etc. The more sophisticated the machine or cell and the more cells that person can work in, the more valuable he becomes to the company. So now when someone is absent, their lines do not stop.

The cream always rises to the top. The newer employee is going to have to acquire experience but you still have to test him through the whole process. He can say that he can do everything but you have to test him to be sure. By running a test, you might find he’s where he needs to be or behind or maybe even ahead. If you don’t have a testing program, you don’t have any way of knowing it.

We are not the teaching arm. We are the testing arm and a certifying body.

WCA has the test. We’re not going to tell you how to teach your employees. However, we have resources and information that can help companies develop their training programs. We are not the teaching arm. We are the testing arm and a certifying body.

Christianson: What’s the next step for WCA 4.0?

Nelson: We are planning to partner with Woodworking Network on a benchmark industry survey that goes beyond simply reaffirming the woodworking industry’s long-stranding struggle to find and keep good workers. We want to identify ways to help the industry meet that challenge. This includes gathering information from woodworking companies about some of the key components for structuring WCA 4.0 and how we can best deliver this new credentialing program to them. We have ideas, but we want to verify that what we are doing it correctly and to solicit input for improving on our ideas.

We want to offer solutions to help individual companies by creating a flow of knowledge. Every company is different. Some use panels, some don’t. Some make mouldings, some don’t. Some do piecework only, some don’t. Our goal is to create a menu of options that each company can choose from based on their circumstances.

We will be publishing the key results of the study and will have more to share at IWF in Atlanta. Bruce Spitz (past president of the Architectural Woodwork Institute) and I will present a How to Create Your Own Training Program workshop. Attendees will have the opportunity to develop their own training template using WCA skill standards. Some guys are going to want to emphasize the WCA Passport program and some are going to be more interested in WCA 4.0. We’ll cover both in the workshop.

Christianson: Any final words?

Nelson: Like it or not, woodworking companies have to understand that they are competing with higher paying jobs in other industries. That’s not only a perception, it’s a reality. If we can’t afford to pay our people as well as other manufacturing jobs, then it becomes even more vital to create career paths that reward them based on their desire and ability to enhance their skill sets.

Every company experiences turnover. The goal is to minimize so that it only happens at entry level. Once you’ve invested a couple of years in training someone, you presumably would want to keep that person. Having a written plan that rewards an employee for achieving specific goals that can be fairly evaluated shows that you care about that person’s career.

Sometimes the best person to keep is someone who shows up to work, has a great attitude and is a positive influence on your operation. Once you have the formal plan in place, you are on track to make someone a great employee for life.

Young Cabinetmaker Savors WorldSkills Experience

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Olympic-like Atmosphere

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more at

Jefferson Millwork Woodworker Becomes First Pro to Earn WCA Red Credential

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


About the Woodwork Career Alliance
The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America was founded in 2007 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation and is governed by a volunteer board of directors. The WCA’s mission is to develop and administer a unified set of Skill Standards for the wood products industry. Since 2011, WCA has developed observable and measurable performance standards and assessments for more than 300 woodworking machine operations. In addition, WCA has issued more than 2,500 credentials, a portable, personal permanent record documenting each holder’s record of woodworking skill achievements. More than 100 high schools and post-secondary schools throughout North America are WCA EDUcation™ members and a growing number of woodworking companies have joined the WCA as MANufacturing members. To learn more about the WCA and how to get involved with its programs, including sponsorship opportunities, visit

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.”

Welcome New Members & Sponsors!


The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America is pleased to welcome six new EDUcation™ member schools and six new INDustry™ Sponsors.

Thank you for your membership and support!

EDUcation™ Members
Charlotte High School, Charlotte, MI
Lester B Pearson High School, Calgary, AB, Canada
Lewis Central High School, Council Bluffs, IA
Oxford High School, Oxford, MA
Rowan – Salisbury High School, Salisbury, NC
Verona Area High School, Verona, WI

Find a WCA EDUcation™ woodworking program in your area.


INDustry™ Gold Sponsors
, Cleveland, OH
Roseburg Forest Products, Springfield, OR
Weinig-Holz-Her USA, Mooresville, NC

Industry™ Silver Sponsors
Eagle Mouldings, Loretto, MN
IMA-Schelling Group USA, Morrisville, NC
Kerfkore, Brunswick, GA

View all WCA INDustry™ Sponsors & Supporters

WMIA Educator Award Honors Industry’s ‘Unsung Heroes’

The annual award program has brought well-deserved recognition to woodworking instructors and schools, including many EDUcation members of the Woodwork Career Alliance.

In accepting the 2018 WMIA Educator of the Year Wooden Globe Award, Joe Davis, woodworking instructor of the Dale Jackson Career Center, became the seventh representative of the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America to receive the prestigious honor since 2008.

Adding to this impressive reign of achievement, WCA affiliates, plus the WCA itself, have received the award from the Woodworking Machinery Industry Association in each of the last six years. The WMIA established the Educator of the Year Award in 1988 to recognize the outstanding dedication of educational institutions, companies and instructors to train individuals for careers in today’s high-tech woodworking industry.

“Since its founding in 1978, WMIA has worked not only to serve its members, but also to help secure the future of the industry,” said WMIA President and CEO Larry Hoffer. “There’s no more effective way to ensure a vibrant future workforce than through education, an area in which WMIA has demonstrated a strong commitment over the last 30 years. WMIA’s Educator of the Year Wooden Globe Award has recognized some of the leading educators across the country, and this recognition is equally as important as our efforts in providing scholarships to students so they can further their education.”

“Choosing the annual Educator of the Year is a big part of our responsibility,” said Chris Hofmann, chairman of the WMIA Education Committee and product specialist of Colonial Saw. “We look for someone who is not only an outstanding educator, but who cares enough to put forth a ton of effort for their students. It’s been great to see the high caliber of nominees that we review and speaks well about the track record of WCA and its members who have risen to the top. They are real standouts in almost every way.”

Scott Nelson, president of the WCA, said he appreciates the WMIA for elevating the importance of woodworking education through its annual award program. “I think the award shows that these are the guys who are doing the work in the trenches and it’s very outstanding that the WMIA is recognizing the job that these educators are doing to teach our next generation of woodworkers. I appreciate all of the publicity they give not only to WCA but to the individuals and their schools. There are many very good programs out there that people don’t know about. I think it shows the value of using the skill standards the WCA has provided to credential their students.”

“People complain about where the next generation of woodworkers is going to come from.”  Hofmann added. “That’s why I think these are kind of the unsung heroes of our industry. They are trying to bring the next generation of woodworkers forward. I think there is a lot of respect among the students and graduates of these programs and how they helped them gain skills that can put them on the right track to further their careers.”

WCA Winners of WMIA Educator Award Honor Roll
The following WCA members may be unsung, but they are not unheralded, thanks to being recognized with the WMIA’s Educator of the Year Award.

2018 Educator Award Winner: Dale Jackson Career Center, Lewisville, TX
Accepted by Joe Davis, mill and cabinet instructor
Over the past 20-plus years, Joe Davis has taught woodworking to more than 1,200 students. Davis is an accredited skills evaluator of the WCA and his program is a founding WCA EDUcation member. High school students who take a third semester in the DJCC woodworking program are introduced to the WCA skill standards and Passport program with the opportunity to earn a Sawblade Certificate. Many of Davis’ students have gone on to lead successful careers as woodworkers.

2017 Educator Award Winner: New England School of Architectural Woodworking, Easthampton, MA
Accepted by Greg Larson, owner/director
Greg and Margaret Larson took over the school in 2012 and expanded it to include architectural woodworking career training. Larson described the program as offering a “very real-world experience” to students, who average 32 years of age and include both young people starting out and older career changers. The private school’s program includes building and installing kitchen cabinet projects for the local community.

2016 Educator Award Winner: Woodwork Career Alliance of North America, Nellysford, VA
Accepted by Scott Nelson, president
Scott Nelson was recognized for his “tireless leadership” of the WCA, a not-for-profit organization founded in 2007 to address the woodworking industry’s critical skilled worker shortage through the development of industry-recognized skill standards. The WCA has developed observable and measurable performance standards and assessments for more than 240 woodworking machine operations. In addition, WCA has enrolled more than 120 secondary and postsecondary institutions as EDUcation™ members, issued over 1,600 WCA passports, and trained more than 180 accredited skill evaluators.

2015 Educator Award Winner: Wood Technology Institute at Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, KS
Accepted by Doug Hague and Charles Phillips, woodworking instructors
The Wood Technology Institute is a highly acclaimed training center and the heart of PSU’s Architectural Manufacturing Management & Technology program. In addition to their roles as woodworking instructors, Doug Hague, who has since become the Education Director of the Architectural Woodwork Institute, and Charles Phillips were lauded for conducting the first WMIA BootCamp to train woodworking suppliers about wood manufacturing processes. The success of that program led to the development of BootCamps for service technicians.

2014 Educator Award Winner: Greater West Town Project, Chicago, IL
Accepted by Doug Rappe, program coordinator
Since being established in 1993, the GWTP has trained and placed some 900 low-income adults with jobs at local woodworking businesses. In recent years, the GWTP has issued a WCA Passport to each of its graduating students. Doug Rappe, program coordinator and a WCA accredited skills evaluator, has been involved with GWTP since its inception. The WMIA honored him for his long-standing dedication to workforce development.

2013 Educator Award Winner: North Salem High School Woods Program, North Salem, OR
Accepted by Dean Mattson, cabinet and woods manufacturing teacher

Dean Mattson was recruited by Peyton School District in Colorado to develop woodworking programs at Peyton High School and the MiLL training center following his success at North Salem High School. There he created a unique STEM and CTE model that incorporated the WCA skill standards for cabinet manufacturing, mathematics and engineering. He also reached out to local businesses to hire qualified graduating students for woodworking positions.

2008 Educator Award Winner: Madison Area Technical College, Madison, WI
Accepted by Patrick Molzahn, director of cabinetmaking and millwork

Patrick Molzahn, author of the fifth edition of Modern Cabinetmaking, is a founding board member of the WCA and recently became the first woodworker to earn the WCA’s Diamond credential. The one-year degree program Molzahn oversees is housed in a well-equipped facility valued at over $1 million. It is organized around lean principles and the WCA skill standards that he helped formulate. In addition to using traditional woodworking equipment and hand tools, students receive hands-on training in the latest CNC machinery and software.


IWF Memorabilia Auction to Benefit Woodwork Career Alliance

Proceeds from winning bids on sports collectables and other valuable merchandise will support the WCA’s woodworking workforce development activities.


ATLANTA – A batting helmet signed by new Hall of Fame inductee Chipper Jones and a microphone autographed by Grammy Award vocalist Taylor Swift are among the many and diverse collectables that will be auctioned during the International Woodworking Fair.

The silent auction is presented through a partnership of Expo Auctions of Sugar Hill, GA, and IWF. Net proceeds will benefit the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America, a non-profit organization dedicated to developing and growing a skilled woodworking workforce.

The silent auction will take place until 3:30 p.m. on each of the first three days of IWF, Wednesday August 22 through Friday August 24. IWF attendees will be able to view most of the auction items on display tables located near the press room B402. These and other auction items also are available for viewing on Expo Auction’s website. Bids will be accepted via text and online. Notifications will be sent to bid winners regarding payment options and pick up. Winning bidders, including those not attending IWF, will be charged for shipping if required.

Visit to view all auction items and learn how to participate in the bidding.

“IWF has been a long-time supporter of the Woodwork Career Alliance,” said Scott Nelson, WCA president. “We greatly appreciate being designated the recipient of this unique and fun fund-raising event. These funds will help us recruit more schools and woodworking companies to our credential Passport program.”

Learn more about the WCA at IWF booth 4154 or visit


About the Woodwork Career Alliance
The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America was founded in 2007 as a 501C(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 achievements as a woodworking professional. 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


Stiles Machinery Presents Solid Wood Technology Forum at Madison College

Stiles Machinery field service rep Kevin Price demonstrates moulder calibration and setup.

More than 40 individuals from industry and education gathered at a recent lunch and learn sponsored by Stiles Machinery and held at Madison College, Madison, WI. Participants spent the day learning about technology and practical applications for working with solid wood, as well as networking with current students.

Stiles product specialist Peter Van Dyke kicked the day off with an overview of the modern rough mill and highlighting multiple types of machinery that can be used to efficiently process wood. Following that presentation, participants were divided into groups and received more theoretical information from Van Dyke and practical demonstrations from Stiles field service rep Kevin Price on handling and preparing tooling, profile knife grinding, and moulder calibration and setup.

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