How do you measure proficiency in woodworking? An industry group is working to establish standards for woodworkers, and you can be a part of it.

National skills standards of excellence for woodworking are being developed by the  Woodwork Career Alliance of North America . The standards of tool skills and evaluations are being written by volunteers.

Architectural Woodwork Institute  has been a leader in this effort, doing an initial study and serving as secretariat for the program. AWI's Greg Heuer told me recently that the alliance is trying to establish objectives and outcomes.

Standards will be used to measure performance and results, and will include a voluntary assessment program that allows woodworkers to demonstrate skills and earn credentials recognized throughout North America.

The alliance hopes to help identify skills required by employers, recognize accomplished skills, establish benchmarks for performance, establish a foundation for credentials and validate accredited training programs.

Scott Nelson, president of Central Plains Woodwork in Lincoln, Neb., is serving as president of the alliance. He pointed out that woodworking is one of only a few industries that does not have skill standards to help evaluate, educate and compensate its workforce.

Standards and credentials are goals

Heuer says that by the end of this year, the alliance wants to have a pilot program written that includes skills for about 15 common tools in the U.S. and Canada. As a pilot testing program, companies will evaluate employees against these standards, and create a framework for the skills standards.

Starting at  AWFS  in July 2009, Heuer says the group wants to expand the pilot program to include a much broader range of the woodworking industry to include upholstery, components and other markets. Then, by the end of 2010, they want to issue a completed program with the exception of the actual credentialing arm.

Heuer says they hope to have the credentialing process in place by the end of 2013.

In addition to AWI, the non-profit alliance is working with the Wood Education and Resource Center, Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry, Forest Service and U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

Heuer says one of the areas that can use immediate help is in adding expertise. Go to  skillstandards.wikispaces.com , and join as an editor or an author for tools for which you have particular expertise or experience. If you have a lot of experience in band saws, for example, sign on and look at what's been written already, and add your expertise to the information on the band saw.

Someone else might be good on moulders or edgebanders. Interested people can also visit woodworker.org

"At this point in the project we are seeking out contributors who are willing and eager to share their expertise and experience to keep our industry strong and professional," Nelson said. "We invite everyone to become involved."

Your time contribution could be small, but the end result could have a large benefit for the industry.

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