The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America (WCA) is expanding in a number of ways, with big plans for 2013. And you can be a part of it.

“WCA will be working with the Northern Forest Center over the next three years to implement our WCA Passport Program with industries in the states of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine,” Scott Nelson, president of the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America, told CabinetMaker+FDM. “We will be starting in late spring and early summer to identify the industries in these states and training evaluators to start certifying employees within these companies.

“We will also be conducting WCA Evaluator Training at AWFS this summer and will have a large presence at the show.”

WCA will have space at Booth 8451 at AWFS in Las Vegas. “We want to do evaluator training and assessment training during the show itself,” Nelson said. “We’ll have space to perform the entire evaluator training. We want to have people start contacting us for evaluator training.”

The WCA Passport is a portable record of accomplishments for each woodworking professional. The program is not tied to specific occupations or jobs. Woodworkers receive their individual passport when they enroll in the program. As they pass evaluations throughout their career, more tool stamps are added to their own personal passport.

This passport itself is kept by the woodworker, but the permanent record is in the WCA database. It is a lifetime record of their skills and abilities. Professional recognition of skills helps to identify the skills required, provide benchmarks for performance, help trainers respond to industry requirements, provide a foundation for credentials, and achieve validation of accredited training programs.

According to WCA, Woodworking Skills Standards are published for more than 150 operations on the 50 tools and machines most commonly used in woodworking. Work on writing standards for additional tools and machines, especially those requested by WCA’s industry partners, is scheduled for 2013 and will continue for a number of years.

The Woodwork Career Alliance has more than 160 passport holders in 25 states and two Canadian provinces. Wisconsin has the most passport holders with 39. Two of these Wisconsin holders have earned their Green credential, and one has earned a Blue credential.

Different levels of certification are indicated by different colors, starting with a Green Credential requiring 30 tool stamps and 800 hours of experience. A Blue Credential needs 60 tool stamps and 1,600 hours to qualify for. Red, Gold and Diamond credentials require more tool stamps and a skill demonstration.

There are six companies, all Architectural Woodwork Institute manufacturing members, that are working to implement the passport and credential program in their operations for employee and reward programs. These companies, each in a different state, already have in-house accredited skill evaluators in place or in training.

Nelson says the companies that have contacted WCA to get started are medium to large, and may be working with a local technical college. It seems that the 15- to 50-employee group is showing most interest right now, but organizing smaller companies would actually be easier.

There are also 69 Accredited Skill Evaluators (ASE) in 20 states and provinces in North America. ASE guidelines are published for use by current evaluators and as a framework for future ASE training and certification.

Training and education

In addition, there have been seven ASE training events in Arizona, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Washington and Wisconsin. Three more events are planned for Virginia and New England, and future planning will include ASE training in California and Canada.

As of January, 30 secondary and post-secondary schools teaching advanced wood manufacturing have passport holders. The State of Kentucky, with six programs, has adopted the passport and credentials of the WCA as the state certificate for wood manufacturing. There are 29 passport holders in Kentucky.

Nelson is in negotiations with the career and education commissions in four other states. These states are seeking to get approval to use the passport and credential program as the state wood manufacturing certificate, which would help them qualify for Perkins education funding.

Evaluators and passport holders can access their individual records on the internet. Evaluators have an iPad app that permits them to conduct evaluations and record results on the registry anytime, eliminating the needs for paper forms or records.

Passports, standards, banners shirts and ASE guidelines can be purchased at the WAC MarketPlace online store.
Nelson said the goal is to have 600 passport holders by the end of 2013. Many of the first passport holders will be students, but the number of industry people will increase. Most students could reach a green or blue level. He is also seeking to work with other states, trying to find the right contacts, sometimes from industry, to move forward. Each state is different.

Getting wood product manufacturers involved is critical to the success of the program.

WCA is a non-profit organization actively promoting a skilled workforce for the advanced woodworking industry.
Anyone can get more information by going to the website, http://woodworkcareer.org/. For general questions and comments, email Greg Heuer, at gheuer@woodworkcareer.org or Scott Nelson at snelsonwca@gmail.com, or mail to: Woodwork Career Alliance of North America, P.O. Box 636, Nellysford, VA 22958-0636.

“The companies that raise their hands first are going to have a true advantage,” Nelson says. “They’ll have a pipeline set up from the school to them, and they will have a working relationship.” 

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