Summer shop classes rise above economy

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Summer woodworking programs aren’t totally feeling the negative effects of the economic downturn. The success of the woodworking schools shouldn’t come as too much of a shock. As a general trend, college and continuing education programs do particularly well in a weak economy.

The programs are considered a great opportunity for people in between jobs, because they offer a way to keep individuals busy and motivated for a better, healthier rebound in the long run. Woodworking programs also provide people with a new trade experience or a means of advancing their skills to potentially earn additional income selling their work.

Adding classes
The Marc Adams School of Woodworking is offering 135 workshops with 65 different instructors this summer. The classes are typically one week long and provide students with the chance to concentrate on a specific skill.

“We have more classes this year than in the past. We’re starting a week earlier and ending a week later. That includes some of our weekend workshops as well,” says Marc Adams.

Adams says this summer’s turnout looks good despite the nation’s current economic slump, with consumers reluctant to let go of their only disposable income. Some classes are even sold out and using waiting lists. However, Adams has noticed people are taking fewer workshops than they normally would. For examples, someone who might normally take two or three classes during the summer is now taking one or two classes. Adams believes those who sign up for his workshops get more bang for their buck.

“I would think we have an advantage here over a longer-term program, because a longer-term program is going to be a lot more commitment and a lot more money,” Adams says.

The school is located in Franklin, Ind., three hours from major cities such as Chicago and St. Louis, with plenty of local hotels that accommodate people from out of town.

“We’re right in the middle of everything, that’s our big draw.”

Adams says that for people who may be interested in woodworking and may have lost their job, he makes his classes available by offering a payment program, so people out of work and with little income have an option.

“This gives them an opportunity to learn and profit from what they’ve learned here. It’s a win-win.”

No place like home
Ron Peyton, owner of the Dogwood Institute School of Fine Woodworking in Alpharetta, Ga., says while a majority of students who are scheduled to attend his summer programs this year live within a 100-mile radius of Atlanta, there is still a good portion willing to travel from places like Baltimore, as they have in the past. If anything, the poor economy is boosting his business.

“I’m hearing people say rather than going on vacation this year that they were going to stay home and take woodworking classes, so that’s good.”

The school provides a small, intimate setting where the student-teacher ratio is about 3-to-1. Most of the classes concentrate on furniture making, but some feature woodworking experts such as Ernie Conover and Andy Rae for weeklong special sessions.

“We did actually have a couple of people that cancelled because of the fact that the economy was like it was. One guy said he lost his job and doesn’t have the extra income. I’m hearing all kinds of horror stories out there, but I don’t know how it’s affecting us. I wouldn’t say it’s affecting us that much.”