A Chicago Community Development Project program trains inner city residents for a career in woodworking.


The Greater West Town Community Development Project Woodworker’s Training Program teaches woodworking skills to inner city residents.

On the west side of Chicago, where the dropout rate for high-school students in recent years rose above a staggering 50% figure, some committed citizens banded together to help create the Greater West Town Community Development Project (GWTP), an education, employment and training center that seeks to help the disadvantaged break the chains of poverty through the various programs they offer.

One of the most successful programs available through the GWTP is its innovative Woodworkers Training Program, 14 weeks of classes that include: hands-on cabinet and furniture-making skills; machine setup, safety and operation; blueprint reading and shop math and more. To qualify, the student must be a low-income resident or dislocated worker committed to finding full-time employment in the woodworking field, with 7th-8th grade reading and math scores and be drug-free.

This award-winning program helps Empowerment Zone residents, ex-offenders, long-term welfare recipients and women seeking nontraditional careers receive technical skills training. According to Lead Technical Instructor Doug Rappe, of the students that graduated between April 1996 and March 2008, nearly 90% have been placed in jobs.

Additionally, the initiative helps to keep local businesses in the distressed area by providing skilled employees. A number of local woodworking firms credit the program for their manufacturing success. Others cite the program as an important factor in their decisions to remain and expand operations in the area.

The Woodworkers Training Program has been widely recognized by local, state and national public policy organizations as a model partnership between community and business, and one that seeks to build a better world by helping people to help themselves.

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