I often write about my friend Dave. Actually, I have more than one friend named Dave that I write about. But this one is Dave Anderson. Dave and I go back 30+ years to when we were young high school teachers together. Dave has had an outstanding career teaching wood shop. The majority of those years were in the Salem, Oregon school district.

When Dave retired, Dean Mattson took over his program. Dean has raised the bar and has received attention at the national level for having done so.  Dean, a cabinetmaker turned woodshop teacher has developed a model of what can happen when industry and education work together.

In his retirement, Dave has been leading the charge for WoodLinks in the northwest as well as providing mentoring for Dean. Dave has been the driving force behind the two previous Teacher In-Service programs that I have participated in.

Dave is not alone in seeing the vision behind industry support for good shop programs. Strong industry leaders are necessary as well. Spencer Dick, President of TigerStop and Jack Ragan, TigerStop’s VP of Sales & Service have been instrumental in offering up their time to help plan these events. They have kindly offered to host these fall functions twice. Last year Hardwood Industries of Sherwood, Oregon hosted. Jeff Wirkala, HWI’s equally passionate owner gave a great opening presentation on hardwoods that day.

In addition, Carl Paasche of Woodcrafters in Portland, Oregon has been at work to build a small vendor fair at these gatherings so that teachers could see the hardware side of woodworking as well as to receive donation “gift bags” from industry leaders such as FastCap, Bessy, Penn State Industries, and General Finishes.

Michael Dresdner, a legend among finishers, was there this year to talk to teachers during two breakout sessions. Michael, a walking encyclopedia of wood finishing knowledge, approached each session with to key questions. “What do you need to know? How can I help?” He went on to answer question after question from shop teachers on how best to finish the projects that students were making. Some of those projects are pretty involved and some are quite simple. With his guidance, the teachers returned to their classroom with lots of tips on how to direct students to quickly and easily apply a finish to their projects.

This year Spencer Dick gave the opening address. Spencer’s company is on (no pun intended) the cutting edge in both woodworking and metal working. He knows full well that what he produces and sells needs woodworkers and metal workers just as Jeff Wirkala knows that he can’t sell hardwoods without a thriving demand for his product. Without question, both of these men know that what we need is skilled workers here…not abroad.

The same is true of those of you who run a cabinet shop or metal fabrication business. You need a strong demand for what your work force can produce. Strong demand will, at some point, mean larger work force. At the same time, you need skilled workers who come to you with entry-level skills that are measurable and shown to be in place when they walk in the door.

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