Across Canada companies that depend on employing workers trained with woodworking skills have stepped up efforts to provide resources to encourage more students to consider a career in wood manufacturing as well as provide curriculum for schools and teachers. Efforts are coordinated by the Wood Manufacturing Council (WMC), a non-profit corporation started in 2002 to bring together people in the public and private sectors to focus on human resources and skills development in what’s called “advanced wood processing” (companies making furniture, cabinets, windows and doors, millwork and building components).
While much of the WMC focus is on companies, activities related to woodworking education include:
- Career information materials to interest people in considering career opportunities in the sector.
- Management training program run online with 10 wood industry-specific modules including new product development, business finance and green marketing. People can take one or more module.
- Professional development days for high school teachers (when possible) held at colleges with cabinetmaking programs to familiarize teachers with post-secondary programs.
- Woodworking class visits to wood manufacturing plants.
- Pre-employment training across Canada to get people skilled up for entry level positions in the industry.
Because workers come to the industry with a wide range of backgrounds and varying aptitudes for some tasks, WMC created a standard set of evaluation tools that use wood-specific examples to assess the best fit for someone. These provide a standard approach to evaluating the essential skills of numeracy, reading text, thinking and using documents.
There are different levels of complexity in the assessment tools to reflect the varying needs and abilities of the learners. Questions are based on what would be encountered in a wood-manufacturing business – in the office or on the plant floor – to teach and enhance these critical basic skills. There can be self-assessment by students or formal testing by instructors is available. This material is available at wmc-cfb.ca.
Employers use these materials for training staff or evaluating prospective employees. Hobby woodworkers and small businesses may also use the tools at Essentials Skills Assessment.
The WoodLINKS program provides a high school curriculum for woodworking to school boards and teachers across Canada. Started in the 1990s by the wood industry in British Columbia and the BC provincial government, WMC took over the program in 2006. When the pandemic forced high school teachers to switch from in-person instruction to online instruction, WMC created a password-protected site for instructors to gain access to core curriculum as well as specific sector modules for their students.
WoodLINKS can lead to industry-recognized certification of graduates. During the COVID pandemic the WMC provides participating instructors with access to the Core and the Sub-Sector Module Curriculum documents, as well as all the chapters of the WoodLINKS Study Guides.
Core curriculum covers fundamentals for entry-level employment in the industry, such as fundamental woodworking, safety, essential skills and technical skills. The curriculum prepares students in both “work readiness” and “wood manufacturing” competencies. The program places a great level of importance on safety. It has value beyond training those students who don’t go on to post-secondary programs and has served to generate students’ interest in moving on to wood-specific apprenticeship training, community college and university programs. Some institutions award academic credit or recognition to students for passing the WoodLINKS program.
Traditionally, WoodLINKS is a flexible 240-hour (120 Introductory-level, 120 Advanced-level) certificate program for teaching industrial woodworking to grade 11 and 12 students. Teachers determine what grades they wish to teach it in. The program offers students theoretical knowledge and hands-on skills acquired through the completion of exercises, class projects, using tools and other activities.
The curriculum is accompanied by comprehensive study guides. The study guides contain numerous relevant sections, which in most cases include self-tests, to monitor learning as students work their way through. Answers to the tests can be provided directly to the students as part of their home learning experience or can be stripped out, so the tests can be used as assessments by teachers.
Upon the successful conclusion of the program, interested students can apply for a certificate that attests that they have met the industry standard (minimum grade for certification is 70%) for entry-level employment in the wood manufacturing industry. This allows students to receive an industry credential to go along with the education credential they receive from their school.
To help teachers tailor their instruction to specific local industry sectors, there are modules in `10 disciplines, including furniture, windows and doors, cabinets and millwork, fine woodworking, manufactured housing, entrepreneurship, remanufactured wood and panel products, lumber, and pulp and paper. The modules extend the core curriculum to better prepare students for opportunities in their community.
The WMC also sponsors the education subscriptions provided by Canadian Woodworking and Home Improvement to deliver complimentary issues of the magazine to eligible instructors and students.