Woodworking camp helps managers boot up skills
July 10, 2017 | 9:58 am CDT
The five-day intensive Boot Camp provides woodworking industry professionals with a hands-on learning experience to wood processing knowledge, machinery and applications. To date, there have been participants from more than 20 companies.

Boot Camp WMIA-style doesn’t require uniforms or pre-dawn roll calls, but it does offer five-days of intensive sessions designed to broaden the understanding of the secondary wood manufacturing process.  The brainchild of the Woodworking Machinery Industry Association in collaboration with Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas, it is designed to provide sales professionals, sales managers, product managers and executives a shortcut to understanding the industry’s manufacturing process.

Doug Hague along with Charlie Phillips helped to design and run the program, which is held on the campus of Pittsburg State University. Since 2015 there have been six Boot Camp sessions and 43 graduates of the program from 23 companies. Phillips is a PSU assistant professor of Wood Technology. Formerly a PSU assistant professor at the university, Hague is the education director for the Architectural Woodwork Institute.

Hague said the Boot Camp idea was born as a means of saying thank you to WMIA for its support of the PSU program, and of the industry as a whole.  “We were told that new sales people were good at selling but didn’t necessarily know about the wood industry. That was the impetus for developing the WMIA Boot Camp.”

Each Boot Camp has a maximum enrollment of 12 participants to “ensure that all of the students can get hands-on time and have a one-on-one experience,” Phillips said. “The benefit of having 12 or less participants also ensures that everyone in the program can utilize the equipment and that we have time to cover all we want in class.” The dynamic of having people from different professional backgrounds adds to the overall experience, he added.

Hague agreed.  “The students will be experts in some areas, but they might not know as much in others. Another goal is to make them aware of how every process affects the manufacturing flow or outcome of a project.”

The camp is a 50/50 mix of class time and lab time, with the full-day typically beginning with a lecture before moving into the lab for further instruction. Topics for the Boot Camp include: AutoCAD, CAM Software, CNC, Wood Science, Primary Processing, Finishing, Veneering, Cabinetry, Machine Woods, Tool Technology, Millwork and Facilities Management. Students also have the opportunity to complete and take home a project, usually a small table or cabinet. Participants also take home a Resource Book, designed to familiarize them with commonly used terms in the industry.

Phillips said they use feedback from participants in keeping the program relevant and successful. The two have been recognized for their efforts, most notably with the winning of the 2015 WMIA Wooden Globe Award for Educator of the Year.

“Winning the WMIA Educator of the Year Award was quite an honor in so many ways,” said Hague. “The fact that we were nominated by an attendee of the very first WMIA Boot Camp made it especially special. For someone to leave camp and feel so strongly about the experience to go through the nomination process, well, as Educators it meant the world to us and to the program.

“It has been an honor to be a part of the program,” he added.

PSU Wood Tech Graduate Assistants Mark Welle and Sam Galliart also have contributed to the success of the WMIA Boot Camps, Phillips noted. “They have been with us all the way, putting hundreds of hours into the program in the lab portion, and working with equipment,” he said.

The next Boot Camp will take place Jan. 8-12, 2018. Tuition is $1,950 for WMIA members and $2,400 for non-members, and includes hotel accommodations for five nights, meals, the Resource Book, lab and project materials, and shipping the project home. For more information visit WTII.net.

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About the author
Jo-Ann Kaiser

Jo-Ann Kaiser has been covering the woodworking industry for 31+ years. She is a contributing editor for the Woodworking Network and has been writing the Wood of the Month column since its inception in 1986.