I am optimistic about where woodworking education is headed.
I'm not saying that it is where it needs to be; technical training is lagging in many sectors of U.S. manufacturing. But driven by the inevitable sway of market forces, with an underlay of cultural change, woodworking education is set for a great revival.
Many in the younger generation have been frustrated by a moribund, or even unmoored, educational system. While there is plenty of academic excellence, we also have colleges churning out indebted grads with generic skill sets. Or students are eschewing college altogether, but have now guidance as to alternative education and career paths.
This incoming generation is actively seeking a fulfilling occupation. Some, through their own devices, are discovering careers in the trades, with the intrinsically satisfying prospect of actually making something. The challenge for the wood manufacturing industries is to make sure they run across us as an option.
I am also detecting within the educational community renewed respect for the value of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). This bodes well for woodworking, a natural, safe, practical and economical area to apply all these disciplines.
Less frequent, and perhaps less frequently trumpeted, are successful educational initiatives. Some notable examples:
An awesome refresh of the Woodindustryed.org portal (supported by AWFS and other organizations).
Woodwork Career Alliance Education & Training adoption by state agencies, such as Northern Forest Alliance for Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire. There are several more that have adopted the Woodwork Career Alliance -
More than 50 schools have affiliated with the Woodwork Career Alliance education arm which supports schools with curriculum development and as a conduit to woodworking industry suppliers.
Another successful recognition of the Wooden Globe Educator of the Year by the Woodworking Machinery Industry Association on May 1.
This may seem counter-intuitive if you are on any woodworking education-related email chains - frequently carrying dire reports of high schools closing up woodshops. We lament those losses too, and hopefully can stem them as part of this greater process of educational change.