Wood shops in schools around the U.S. are hitting a wall. Even as the U.S. rethinks how we've approached education and industrial policy, high schools and community colleges are dismantling carpentry and wood shop classrooms -a product of budget cutting and flagging student interest.
Reports of the shift come from all over: Mountain Home, Idaho's school district is auctioning its former carpentry/woodworking program after closing the program down. Area residents fear the assets will be sold for a pittance. Should the school want to restore the program later, it will face another budget hurdle.
In Newmarket, New Hampshire, the junior/senior high school will see the wood shop closed, eliminating student access not just to tools, but even to computers with woodworking design and cutting applications. The teacher whose program is being displaced is looking for ways to have students still work with wood (balsa wood crafting, etc.) without machinery.
What response should the woodworking industry make? Take a look at what cabinet maker Jim McGrew is doing. As Richland Northeast High School in Columbia, North Carolina prepared to phase out its woodshop, McGrew is rousing the area woodworkers, enlisting the aid of the local Architectural Woodwork Institute chapter to fight back.
Currently 68 students are enrolled in Cabinet Making 1 at Richland Northeast, which has an estimated $100,000 worth of equipment.
But it's not equipment they need. It's interest. Few students move through all four years of the program.
Here woodworking firms have a responsibility: market the cabinet, millwork and wood crafting industries as a career path to students in your area. Visit schools on career day. Hold open houses. Support school fundraising efforts.
And get your existing school program involved with WoodLINKS USA. This education advocacy group for our industry offers a turn-key curriculum, networking, and material support for schools that are members.
We think this is so important that we have dedicated a section of WoodworkingNetwork to WoodLINKS, covering each of the 60+ schools involved one by one.
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