CONCORD, NH – The Woodwork Career Alliance (WCA) job skills credentialing and training program is being adopted by a consortium of lumber and forest products groups in three new England states, under a new skilled workforce initiative led by a regional wood products trade group.
The initiative, which will incorporate WCA job skills testing, is a collaboration between the Northern Forest Center, and key partners: the Vermont Wood Manufacturers Association, Maine Wood Products Association, Architectural Woodwork Institute, White Mountains Community College, Vermont Woodworking School, as well as the WCA. The idea behind the effort is to help the wood products industry be economically competitive by ensuring that it has a highly skilled workforce now and in the future.
|The Woodwork Career Alliance (WCA) has undertaken in a multi-year process, working closely with the wood manufacturing industry across the U.S., to develop skill standards for 55 machines and tools important in wood products manufacturing. These standards serve as an industry-accepted compilation of operational procedures for use in measuring performance and results produced by woodworking professionals. Many of these machines and tools have multiple operations, so that there are now a total of 150 operations for which skill standards have been developed. In connection with the Skill Standards, WCA has also created a credentialing program, a Woodwork Passport, to provide a portable, personal, permanent record of a woodworker’s level of competency in tool and machine operations. For each operation on each machine, a worker can be certified at a basic, intermediate, or an advanced level. WCA will issue a Woodwork Passport to each woodwork er being credentialed, perform evaluations as requested on particular machines and tools, and issue tool stamps to woodworkers who are evaluated as meeting the standards on particular operations.
“One of our goals is to establish a strong career path for woodworkers, and to make sure the field is a recognized and valued profession," says Rob Riley, president of the Northern Forest Center, which is steering the effort. “We’re offering the program directly to manufacturers and their workers, and we’re working with educational institutions to prepare students for good jobs in the wood manufacturing industry."
The Regional Wood Products Consortium says it is collaborating with its partners in offering the program to manufacturers in northern New England. The Woodwork Career Alliance will supply the standards and credentialing system. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration provided some initial funding for the program through its Rural Jobs Accelerator Challenge
“When a worker satisfies standards for a particular machine or tool, we indicate that in the woodworker’s ‘Woodwork Passport,’ which serves as a portable, permanent record that can be used for career advancement.” said WCA President Scott Nelson.
“Working with the Northern Forest Center is a critical step in moving our program forward. We’ll be able to demonstrate the practical value of the credentialing system for companies, employees, educational institutions and students,” said Nelson.
The Center is talking with community colleges, private woodworking schools and technical colleges, as well as specialized schools at the high school level, about implementing specialized skills training and WCA’s credentialing system as part of their curricula.
“Across the region, the value-added wood products manufacturing sector employs thousands of workers, and small- and mid-size wood products companies represent a large employment base in rural communities,” said Collin Miller, who coordinates the Regional Wood Products Consortium for the Northern Forest Center.
“This program provides a professional pathway we’ve needed in this industry for a long-time,” said Miller. “We believe the program will lead to a higher rate of job placement and job satisfaction, and it will build and help sustain a skilled workforce in the region so that wood products manufacturing can be a vibrant part of the forest-based economy here.” Miller, who is actively recruiting business paraticipating, can be reached at 603-229-0679, ext. 110)
"We’re looking to improve skills in some key areas of our production,” says Henry Kober, owner and president of DCI in Lisbon, NH, which produces hardwood furniture the education and government sectors.
Kober started his business in 1975 with three employees. It has since grown to more than 200 people at three facilities in New Hampshire, Vermont and North Carolina.
“We want to hire people who want to gain the skills to grow with the organization. This training program can help bring up the next generation of talent who can work in this type of precision manufacturing,” says Kober.
Wood products mnufacturers in all three states have signed up for the initial stage of the program, which provides a detailed profile of each company’s credentialing and training needs for current and future employees.
“The work is out there,” says Kevin Hastings, president of Amoskeag Woodworking in Colchester, VT, whose architectural milwork company is being profiled by by WCA. “But if we can’t staff up fairly quickly with a skilled workforce, our opportunities for growth are more limited.”
Since its founding in the 1990s, Amoskeag Woodworking has added a hardwood millwork division and a new production facility in Fairfax, VT. it employs more than 50. “This program will significantly advance the woodworking sector in our area,” Hastings said.