One of the biggest challenges for businesses today is finding and keeping qualified employees. In most parts of the country, woodworking companies are facing a skills crisis. A couple of years ago, a group of associations, organizations and dedicated volunteers joined together to form the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America (WCA), a nonprofit organization, to address these challenges. Among its goals is to promote a skilled workforce for the advanced woodworking industry to ensure a workforce prepared for the challenges of the 21st Century. It will do this by developing:

• Woodwork Manufacturing Skill Standards — observable and measurable standards for tool and machine operations to evaluate performance and results produced by woodworking professionals, and

• A Woodworker Credentials/Passport Program —
a portable, permanent record of a woodworker’s level of competency in tool and machine operations.

 
 


Initial skill standards released and tested

Progress already has been made on both fronts. Last summer, WCA released Wood- work Manufacturing Skill Standards for 33 woodworking tools. Says Scott Nelson, WCA president, “Our mission is to develop standards for the full range of tools critical to our industry. We’ve identified the next 30 tools and machines for which we will develop standards in 2010.

“Wood shops and training institutions throughout the country are currently testing the initial standards with their employees and students and their feedback has been overwhelmingly positive,” he continues.

WCA also has begun developing a national credential program for woodworkers to demonstrate their competency in in-plant woodworking skills and earn credentials recognized throughout North America. Credentials will be based on the Woodwork Manufacturing Skill Standards. Woodworkers will receive a “Woodwork Passport” in which they will gather an array of “tool stamps” validating their tool proficiencies throughout their career. The first phase of the Woodwork Passport Program will be rolled out in 2010.

Corporate sponsorships available now
Most recently, WCA announced a Corporate Sponsor Program to accompany the new skill standards and national credential program. One corporate sponsorship is available for each tool or machine included in the Woodwork Manufacturing Skill Standards.

In recognition of their support, sponsors’ logos will be placed at the top of the tool or machine skill standards, which will be distributed in hard copy and electronically to training institutions, woodworking shops, associations and foundations throughout North America.

“This is a great opportunity for industry suppliers to market their companies on a limited budget and gain high visibility to the people who buy and use their products,” Nelson says.

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