My colleague blogged last week about the woodworking industry's mixed record on education and training.
Like other U.S. manufacturing sectors, the wood manufacturing lost cache with educators and students as a career destination. That's before we remembered that providing intangibles - stuff like transportation, retailing goods, selling investments vehicles - was no subsitute for producing solid goods like furniture, cabinets, computers and boots.
You've got to really make things to make money. And ideally goods for export.
Good thing we've got a woodworking industry, and forests full of timber, to allow for billions of dollars in valuable production of primary, secondary wood products right here in the U.S.
Business has begun to see the opportunity, as each week brings more reports of a reviving wood sector. So where will workers come from now that we are resurrecting domestic furniture and wood products - including export?
Here are some suggestions:
Veterans: one million returning soldiers are welcome at wood products firms, who can claim a tax credit for hiring them. The bill was just signed after receiving remarkable bi-partisan support in an otherwise divided Congress.
Newcomers: forest products firms have thrived on hard labor of skilled and unskilled laborers from other industries, and especially from abroad. It's the rare production site that doesn't have signs in multiple languages and workers from multiple homelands delivering the goods. (This is why some lumber and construction firms have begun speaking out against state immigration laws that scare off even legal residents if they have undocumented immigrants in their families.)
Senior Workers: We're staying on the job longer leaving a window of opportunity for skills transfer from well .
U.S. Schools: Here's a very important part of the solution, and one where you can help. Let your local high school and community college know that you would like to see professinal caliber training in woodworking skills. You should call and ask to speak to the principal or dean about it.
And if they need direction on how to establish a classroom curriculum, WoodLINKS USA has turnkey classroom structure for educating woodworkers. WoodLINKS is linked to SkillsUSA and to the Woodwork Career Alliance programs, to further support and channel career development.
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