By Thomas W. Tuck III

When meeting a new peer or professor during my college days, the conversation often went like this: What is your major? “Furniture studies,” I’d reply. So is that a real major or…? And we’d transition to a conversation on how, why and what will you do with that?

This conversation, often lengthy, still comes up. And each time it begins, now, as then, “Well, in high school I was in this program called ‘WoodLINKS’ with my woodworking class…”

If WoodLINKS had not been a part of the Cedar Ridge High School woodworking program back in Hillsborough, NC, I would not be where I am today, at SCM Group. Not only did WoodLINKS give my high school a jump start with industry support, WoodLINKS jump started my career path. It created a vision of what could be.
Born and raised in North Carolina, I knew it was a great place to be for wood industry careers. But how would I find my niche? The best path is networking. And WoodLINKS helped with that.

WoodLINKS USA aims to get the woodworking industry directly involved in attracting and training workers. As a regional sales manager for SCM Group, I see woodworking companies of different sizes, production levels, and applications, all challenged in finding workers. It can be very costly to keep retraining operators.

WoodLINKS is about more than student proficiency exams. It is an atmosphere, a career path, a way to interact. As our industry becomes directly involved, schools find resources for woodworking classes. Used by over 90 school systems, WoodLINKS USA programs help over 10,000 students a year learn of rewarding careers available to them in the wood industry. — Thomas Tuck

October 2010 CWB will carry a 16-page WoodLINKS supplement. Ten percent of ad sales will go to WoodLINKS. Info at

Link to the Industry

By attending WoodLINKS meetings and trade shows in Greensboro, Atlanta, Anaheim and Las Vegas, I met teachers and professors, business owners and sales reps. I knew meeting more people meant more opportunities. (For my 18th birthday my parents gave me a business card contact organizer!)

After graduating in 2003 from the Cedar Ridge High WoodLINKS program, I kept in touch with my program director, Wilf Torunski. At the 2005 TSI Expo in Greensboro, NC, I met Wilf and the president of WoodLINKS, Keith Malmstadt, president of Great Lake Woods. The idea of an internship at Keith’s facility in Holland, MI, and living with Wilf came up, and I took them up on the offer.

Three months later I packed up my Jeep for a 10-hour drive to Holland where I spent 10 weeks working in every area of the Great Lake Woods’ plant. 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. shifts and Wilf’s steaks at night made it a summer I will never forget. Connections beget connections (the “links” part of WoodLINKS), and in 2005 my internship found me running the WoodLINKS booth at AWFS Las Vegas. There AWFS’s Nancy Fister opened an option for an internship for the 2007 show.

Two duffel bags of clothes, a laptop, and a five-hour flight brought me to beautiful Southern California for 12 weeks, where I earned college credits during a paid internship, and gained valuable experience. Could it get any better? Little did I know this internship, just like my other experiences, would link me to another door of opportunities.

Two months later in July, during the 2007 AWFS show I was introduced to a man named John Gangone, president of SCM Group USA and brother of AWFS Executive VP Angelo Gangone. Woodworking Machinery? A career path I had never though about, but hey... why not?

Today I am a Regional Sales Manager covering the Gulf States from Texas to Florida with one of the largest machinery manufactures in the world, SCM Group. How did a 24-year-old get to be in a position like this? WoodLINKS.

WoodLINKS USA is more than a test that students can take. It is an atmosphere, a career path, and a way of interacting. If the industry becomes involved with education, schools and students, the schools will have the tools and resources to educate students about the woodworking industry.

Editor's note: Thomas Tuck III is regional sales manager of SCM Group based in Duluth, GA. 

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