Woodworking as a craft is one of mankind’s oldest uses of technology, and each generation has passed along knowledge about how to, when to and why to. Technology has changed within the craft itself and the way in which information moves from older to younger. A lot of things that used to be made out of wood are now constructed of different materials, but woodworking is still an important part of the American economy and there is still a need for skilled woodworkers. In fact, jobs in the woodworking industry are going unfilled due to a shortage of qualified people.
There are plenty of young people who would jump at the opportunity to enter the woodworking industry, especially those who cant afford, or may not be inclined to pursue a college education and a white collar job. If you’re reading this blog, you know the feeling of creating something useful from wood. I’ve enjoyed the good fortune of spending my career making a living as a woodworker; the first 30 years making things and the last 10 writing and teaching about making things. Looking back, I have no regrets. Looking forward I wonder how we can connect the dots between young people who need jobs and an industry that needs fresh faces to grow.
A few weeks ago, I spent time with a guy who has figured out how to make the connection and the cream of the crop of his students. Dean Mattson teaches a remarkable wood manufacturing program at North Salem High School in Salem, Oregon. Students who complete the course leave high school with offers of jobs in the industry for full time work at decent wages. There aren’t many high schools in the country where a kid can graduate and get started on a career, but there isn’t any reason that Mattson’s program can’t be duplicated.
That’s the next step for Mattson. He’s received awards for his work and numerous requests from industry and other schools. He recently called for industry to support a national training center that would be a model program. You’ll be hearing more about that in the future. For now, this video will show you a closer look at how students at an inner-city school learn practical skills that can lead them to a better life.
More stories about Dean Mattson and his work can be found on my personal blog.