Editor’s Note: WoodLINKS USA, the wood industry education initiative, has been merged into the Woodwork Career Alliance (WCA), which now will begin offering an Education membership for woodworking training centers of all types.
WoodLINKS started in the U.S. in the late 1990's because there was a need for skilled workers and there existed a disconnect between education and industry. Led by a select group of industry members and educators, WoodLINKS was brought to this country from Canada and nurtured to become an organization of over 100 schools in 13 states.
The turbulent economy in recent years eroded much of the support which sustained the organization for its first decade, but the need for skilled workers has not changed. Like many companies rising from the recession, WoodLINKS USA has had to adapt to a new reality. July may officially mark the end of WoodLINKS USA, but it also marks the beginning of a new organization. The Woodwork Career Alliance will begin offering an Education membership. For a $250 annual fee, schools can join and will receive numerous benefits including the ability to start students off on their WCA credentialing journey.
The site fee formerly required by WoodLINKS was a barrier which prevented many schools from joining. With the new fee structure, we anticipate the number of WCA Education members will quickly grow. Thanks to the generosity of companies like Quickscrews, FastCap & Veneer Technologies, schools will continue to receive much needed supplies. In addition, the WCA Skill Standards provide industry created targets for both students as well as individuals already in the workforce. Furthermore, the WCA credentialing system provides a portable, personal, and permanent record of a woodworker's level of competency in tool and machine operations. The WCA is currently developing training materials for both industry and education to teach the skills necessary to attain these credentials.
As we move forward, we must not forget the progress we have made, or the people who have brought us to this point. The list of names is too long to include here, but I do want to recognize two individuals who have given a tremendous amount of time to WoodLINKS USA over the past several years - Mark and Linda Smith. Without their dedication, WLUSA would have disappeared long ago.
WoodLINKS has had a tremendous impact on our industry, as the stories that follow attest to. I have no doubt that when we look back on our next chapter, people will say the same of the WCA.