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The last few years have been a rough patch for business to say the least. And while many wood products companies have been "right sizing" of late, we continue to hear the moans of executives that good help is hard to find.

The derth of skilled woodworkers is a refrain that has echoed through survey after survey during my 25 years of service with Wood & Wood Products. Even during the best of times for the wood products industry, a fair share of owners and executives of fast-growing companies featured in our WOOD 100 reports, complained that their firm's continued success was subject to their ability to recruit and/or retain skilled woodworkers.

As we await the pendulum resurgence of the wood products industry, the question of where the woodworkers needed to help propel companies to the next level of success, remains as confounding as ever. Manufacturing careers, including woodworking, are far from the front-of-mind choices kids are thinking about as they prepare to graduate from high school. This is in no small part a result of secondary educational institutions to whack vocational progams from their curriculums.

So what can you do to to perpetuate the future of our industry? I suggest that you familiarize yourself with two critically important industry initiatives that have the potential to pay great dividends.

The first is WoodLINKS, a national program aimed at promoting woodworking careers to high school students. 

While we all know that woodworking has joined the rank of high-tech industries, this fact has not permeated the public conscience. WoodLINKS is combatting the dreams of parents who wish something more than their children in life than to become woodworkers.

WoodLINKS USA was well chronicled in the October issue of Custom Woodworking Business and on I urge you to read our coverage and give thought not only to contributing financially to this much-needed non-profit entity, but also how you can become an advocate with your community high school programs to join the WoodLINKS network. No doubt there are one or more kids in your backyard that with a bit of nurture can become your future star performers.

The second program to take note of is the Woodwork Skill Standards, developed by the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America. 

Whereas WoodLINKS aims to attract youth into the woodworking trade, the Woodwork Career Alliance's mission is to create a path for woodworkers to show their value and grow their value by demonstrating their proficiency at a wide variety of operations such as operating CNC routers or flat-line finishing systems.

The WCA is still in its formative stages and is acitvely seeking input from the woodworking industry in its pursuit to improve the standards, measurements and evaluation methods for several dozen machining operations.

It's your choice. You can sit back and hope things get better on their own or you can take the bull by the horns and help things get better. 

It's your choice.

Read more of Rich Christianson's Blogs.

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