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Vermont teachers adapt woodworking skill standards

Eight secondary and post-secondary teachers in Vermont have qualified to use the Woodwork Manufacturing Skill Standards as a formal evaluation tool in their classrooms, the result of completing a day-long accreditation class.

Greg Heuer of WCA (at left) explains an evaluation procedure to instructors (from left) Eugene Reid of Canaan Memorial High School, Matthew Stark of St. Johnsbury Academy and Kim Sweatt of Canaan Memorial High School.

“Vermont has a strong secondary wood manufacturing sector filled with talented furniture making, cabinetry and custom millwork businesses,” says David Bazis, a woodworking teacher at U32 High School in Montpelier, who hosted the session at the school’s design and technology lab. “Yet the industry struggles to find younger people interested in pursuing work in the sector.

“What this system provides us is a template with which we can teach skills and know that they are valued by the industry. Hopefully, we’ll be making some better connections with the job creators in our region’s woodworking sector and getting some students fired up about advanced woodworking as a potential career option.”

The standards, developed by the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America, cover more than 50 woodworking machines and tools. Once a student successfully passes an evaluation, he or she receives a “tool stamp” to indicate proficiency with the tool.

“Participating students and industry employees collect the tool stamps in a Woodwork Passport, a portable, permanent record of their achievements that will help them gain employment in the sector and grow professionally over time,” says Collin Miller, director of wood products initiatives for the Northern Forest Center, which is partnering with the WCA to deliver the program to businesses and educational institutions across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, along with the Vermont Wood Manufacturers Association.

The state of Vermont recently approved the WCA system as a third-party, industry-recognized certification program. Miller said there are more than 50 skill evaluators in the U.S. and Canada and that this is the first major initiative to implement the program in the northern New England states.

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This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue.

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