Though wood technology majors represent just 0.8 percent of the more than 1,200 undergraduate degrees awarded this past May at Pittsburg State University (PSU), all of them were hired before their diplomas arrived. “Last semester, we had 53 students enrolled in either the AAS, BST and BAS combined,” says Doug Hague Assistant Professor-Wood Technology Coordinator.
“We graduated 10 students this last May and all of them had accepted offers by the first part of April,” Hague adds proudly.
From the public university situated in Pittsburg, KS, five are going into the architectural wood industry (in Florida, Illinois and Oklahoma); two went to a high-end store fixtures firm in Colorado; one went to a kitchen cabinet manufacture in Kansas; one to the museum and exhibit industry in Tennessee; and one to a restaurant furnishing company in Missouri.
“They accepted positions from assistant project managers, engineers, draftsmen and fabricators,” he says. PSU also placed more than 20 students, “from California to Texas to Minnesota to Florida and everywhere in between,” on summer internships, Hague reports.
PSU’s hands-on lab approach serves its students well. “There is more technology in the wood industry than most realize,” Hague says. “They are still stuck with the wrong perception, that woodworking is done in your garage with tools from a big box store… With all the technology coming on board, there are few limits to where you could go within the industry.”
Located 140 miles straight south from Kansas City, PSU offers three undergraduate degrees in wood technology. The Associate of Applied Science (AAS) is a two-year endeavor; the Bachelor of Science in Technology (BST) and Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) are four-year pursuits. These curriculum tracks fall under the public university’s College of Technology and its Technology & Workforce Learning Department.
Learning by Doing
“The PSU wood technology program fills a void because there are not many other programs offering a four-year wood technology degree focusing on secondary wood manufacturing,” Hague notes. “Our graduates receive diverse training that can prepare them with a skill set for the shop or office side of woodworking career.
Hague is an alum who graduated 12 years ago from PSU, earning a master’s degree, serving as a graduate assistant, then joining the university staff in August 2008. Prior to that, he spent four years at a wood manufacturing business in project management, estimating and drafting and CNC programming.
Hague’s colleague is Assistant Professor Charlie Phillips, whose woodworking forte is on the shop side. The two men make a well-balanced duo. “Charlie is the hands-on guy who makes it all happen after it’s conceptualized on the computer. He was a shop foreman and has experience in high-end residential and commercial work,” Hague says. Phillips earned his master of science degree in wood technology in 2011.
“The curriculum does not make an individual choose their option on paper,” Hague says, “but exposes them to the variety of options within the wood industry, lectures on theory and allows them to have hands-on interactive learning in labs.” It also requires an industry internship “to see it from another perspective.”
The industry has embraced PSU’s efforts, Hague says. “The machine industry’s support comes from the fact that we are very hands-on.” Students spend a lot of time in front of equipment learning capabilities and exploring ways to get more out of the machines. “Come graduation time, they have spent many hours using and operating the equipment in the labs.
PSU’s wood tech program starts with the basics. “We have people enter who have never held or read a tape measure,” he continues. “We quickly progress through exposure learning and reinforcement learning, and then get into applied learning.” The capstone course in furniture manufacturing proves students can develop a project from design concepts to engineered drawings, estimate costs, then organize job schedules and materials, produce documentation, fabricate, finish, complete an installation, invoice, and compile final job cost and analyze actual hours worked.”
Hague encourages hiring employers to attend the annual PSU Wood Technology Company Days, February 25 and 26, 2016. Last year 31 companies registered and brought 62 representatives. (Visit pittstate.edu/wood.)
The College of Technology Company Day is also a must on September 22 and 23. Open to the entire college it allows companies to speak with students from manufacturing, plastics, electrical, mechanical and wood manufacturing. http://bit.ly/1G73kf8
Boot Camp Grad Nominated His Teachers
Pittsburg State U: Assistant Professors Doug Hague and Charlie Phillips have passion for the woodworking industry and for educating. The pair were awarded the Wooden Globe Educator of the Year for conducting Boot Camp for industry suppliers at PSU’s Wood Technology Industry Institute in partnership with WMIA.
Boot Camp is a five-day intensive on secondary wood processing fundamentals for supplier sales professionals, managers, product managers and execs, devised, Hague says, to thank industry suppliers that have generously supported PSU’s wood tech program. He and Phillips were nominated for the recognition by J.J. Besonen of Wood Machinery Systems, Minnetonka, MN, who attended the inaugural Boot Camp in January 2015. Besonen was impressed by their desire for students to fully understand machines and the direction the industry is going.
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