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View Kent Shepherd's profile

Woodworkers Unite!

by Kent Shepherd
posted 12-21-2009 08:01 PM

25 replies so far

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10097 posts in 4050 days

#1 posted 12-21-2009 08:24 PM

Very good letter…

Hope it does some good!

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3282 days

#2 posted 12-21-2009 08:35 PM

Kent, That was a great letter to the editor. I’m afraid this is happening all over. North Carolina (Furniture Capital of the World) has done the same and when I first moved to South Carolna a few years ago, I realized they have taken Industrial Arts out of our schools here too. A couple year ago I wanted to find a young person that might have the same passion that I had when I took woodworking in school and work with him/her to help them learn the love of woodworking in business. No luck! No woodshops in school. I even went to the local private school of Arts and Science only to find out they had classes on about everything but woodworking….......So I guess my passion for woodworking is becoming a lost Art.

-- John @

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18269 posts in 3673 days

#3 posted 12-21-2009 08:47 PM

Too much teaching to a test performance and a politically correct agenda combined with financial troubles of a depth unseen since the Great Depression are taking a terrible toll on the education of today’s youingsters ;-((

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3332 days

#4 posted 12-21-2009 09:31 PM

This does strike a chord Kent. Here in Norway youngsters who were not headed to higher schools were enrolled in trade/technical schools at an age of about 15 years. This was great for so many “hands on” type of persons. After finishing trade school where they learned Electrical, plumbing, woodworking, welding and a whole raft of other technical skills, they were apprenticed to successful businesses to get practical experience and prove themselves. This was done through a partnership between business and the schools. The problem today is that if anybody has a job that doesn’t have the title “manager” attached to it, it is thought to be a lesser position. I have known a lot of mangers in my day and been one myself. Most have been incompetent leaders with a few glowing exceptions. I don’t include myself among this last group, but I did the best I could, as others do. We need people who can actually do things in the real world. With experience they should become the managers. The way some people work these days is absolutely appalling. I blame it all on to the modern education system. We have basically trashed a whole group of people who could be doing very well and providing benefits to society at large. Good luck in your quest!!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Brian024's profile


358 posts in 3397 days

#5 posted 12-21-2009 09:32 PM

I’ve been at the tech school for 4 years so far, 2 years for high school building construction and 2 years for industrial mechanics. They teach everything; nursing, culinary, auto, diesel, machining, welding, and even EMT/firefighting. Most of the computer and health related programs, have really big attendance rates and are full every year. The one that has really taken a hit is the machining and printing. The construction class is the closest thing to a woodshop, there’s probably $50,000 worth of Powermatic machines in there but he doesn’t teach a lot of woodworking, some but not a lot. He does build a bookcase every year and shows the guys how to use the jointer, planer, router, and the other tools you don’t normally use on a construction site.

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3332 days

#6 posted 12-21-2009 10:19 PM

My comments above may seem hypocritical in light of the what I said on another post last week, which basically was, that with all the books, woodworking videos and inexpensive tools that high school woodshop wasn’t really necessary anymore. At the time I was thinking of hobby woodworkers, but you put this in a different context, and I see now that there is a lot more to it than just hobbyists needs and that I was wrong. Good wake-up call.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View rustedknuckles's profile


160 posts in 3749 days

#7 posted 12-21-2009 10:24 PM

In 1990 I graduated university with an Industrial Arts/Technology education degree. The high school industrial arts programs were phased out a few short years later; however, we have managed to hold onto the middle school level programs. These cover a broad spectrum of the industrial/home economic/technology courses. This does not qualify or compare in any way shape or form for training in the related fields, only as an introduction to the various groups.

It wasn’t until recently (2 or 3 years ago) that some of the industrial programs were reintroduced to the high schools and I know that a full reintroduction is in the plans. This is happening because some people in the upper education department of my province actually have their heads screwed on right and saw the growing need for trades people. So all is not lost every where.

-- Dave- New Brunswick

View degoose's profile


7233 posts in 3352 days

#8 posted 12-21-2009 11:01 PM

High Schools here in Australia still have all the “manual arts’’ as they are called here… I know because the neighbors kid wanted some timber for a turned table and I gave him some NGR and PH and he was the envy of all the other kids with their pine…. I also have had enquires for the Torque Workcentre from various teachers and schools in Brisbane… so they are still doing a lot for the Vocational/Technical trade courses… also a big push for apprenticeships here in OZ… there was a slump for a while and now the country reallises that more trade people are required to actually run the country…. or stop it from stopping… lol

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3575 days

#9 posted 12-21-2009 11:09 PM

Not to much more to add other than your letter hit the nail on the head(forgive the pun) but like many things our government will not act until there is a great shortage of tradesman.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View End_Grain's profile


95 posts in 3134 days

#10 posted 12-22-2009 12:45 AM

I thought our great government already had that solved with Job Corps. I mean where else can an 18-23 year old, drug pushing, wannabe blood or crips gang member drop out get room and board, clothing, a trade and get paid to do it for several years all on our nickel.

-- My greatest fear is that when I die, my wife will sell all my stuff for what I told her I bought it for.

View cabinetmaster's profile


10874 posts in 3556 days

#11 posted 12-22-2009 12:57 AM

I agree that we as woodworkers should unite and Try to reverse this trend. I think this is not only the trend in your area but nationwide as I have read a lot of these articles in various woodworking and cabinetbuilding magazines.Anyboby got any real ideas of what we should do?

-- Jerry--A man can never have enough tools or clamps

View NathanAllen's profile


376 posts in 3142 days

#12 posted 12-22-2009 01:11 AM

Thankfully the school district I live in supports our schools unconditionally, this means we still have music, art, sports and industrial arts.

Unfortunantly, our property tax assigned to just the school district is 4.48/1,000 on assessed value.

That is $4,800 in property taxes on a $300,000 house for the school district alone, painful.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18269 posts in 3673 days

#13 posted 12-22-2009 01:34 AM

That is definitely a healthy tax bite, but good schools cost good money. If there isn’t an improvement in the economy pretty soon, I expect to see tax increases to support basic education here in WA.

Union apprenticeship programs used to be a big factor in educating tradesmen, but the union busting attitudes of the last 30 years have done away with a lot of those programs. When I was an apprentice, I went to school for 2 nights a week for 4 years. The state of Washington recently required nonunion apprentices to have 8 hours classroom training a year. It is little wonder we are getting electricians that can’t do much more than run conduit in a straight line or be a stud boring specialist. Now the union program is 4 days a week on the job and 1 day a week in the classroom for 6 years.

I’m not sure a decision between trade school or college should be made at age 15. I graduated high school with an appointment to the Air Force Academy. I ended up dropping out of college at the end of the first semester to start my apprenticeship. One of my profs had a EE with a PhD. He was teaching college because of the low wages for engineers at the time. One of my neighbors who was an engineer ask me about the money I made as a 2nd year apprentice. He got all huffy and never spoke to me again! It wasn’t my fault he got an engineering degree instead of a journeyman card. That disparity has leveled out in the last 40 years.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View steveosshop's profile


230 posts in 3623 days

#14 posted 12-22-2009 02:09 AM

Good letter and good luck. They did the same thing in many of the school districts around here. They took woodshop out of our highschool about 9yrs ago now. Major bummer. I was in high school in the program when it happened and many parents including mine tried to get them to add it back in, but noone would listen. I hope you have better luck than we had.

-- Steve-o

View LesB's profile


1726 posts in 3440 days

#15 posted 12-22-2009 02:22 AM

We have a lot of international members of LJs and I’m sure they have their own national priorities in school that are different from ours. So this question could go many different ways if they responded.

For the USA Middle school might be a bit early for serious shop classes and even a “waste of money” but it might be good to follow some of European countries. About the second year of high school the students can direct their schooling towards a particular degree/certificate. (I may have the age/timing off some here) Either college prep or “industrial arts” type classes. This gives each group a direction and incentive. Those who are not academically oriented go into the IA classes and the others into university oriented classes. I think most of the IA training leads to an apprenticeship after high school. Bad part is once they decide on these educational tracks it can be hard to change.
If the US is to stay ahead of the rest of the world in technology and production (and I’m not sure we are ahead any more) we need to concentrate on more highly trained professionals in the areas of science, engineering, medicine, and related fields. Some how the so called “trades” have always taken care of themselves. People start out as apprentices and work up from there. Most trades have apprenticeship programs.

I am not a journeyman in any trades but I can do the work of most of them even though I never took a industrial arts class. A close friend of mine who was an IA middle school teacher always asked how I learned my woodworking and handyman skills without taking a class. Most through trial and error; a lot of reading and asking questions of those who new how. Somehow without classes most of us who are interested learn the skills.

-- Les B, Oregon

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18269 posts in 3673 days

#16 posted 12-22-2009 02:35 AM

Trial and error and self taught is fine for DYI and hobbyists, but not for journeyman or master level craftsmen. The only objection I would have to choosing the college or trade path at 15 yrs of age would be the difficulty of making the change. I have known quite a few in the local who have college degrees and professional titles who became apprentice electricians in their 30’s.

A good well rounded high school education should have exposure to both with options for those who cannot make it academically and those who are totally inept mechanically.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View woodman71's profile


162 posts in 3321 days

#17 posted 12-22-2009 02:56 AM

I like to say that this is right on the money. But for most kids hard labor jobs don’t appeal to them and they don’t understand the satisfaction of building some thing with their hands. They also don’t want to start at bottom and work their way up in experience and in pay I see it every day in auto collision industry these kids pay between 20 to 30 thousand to go to school like Wyoming tech and when they get out in the shops and find out they don’t know everything and their not going to be makeing 60 to 80 thousand a year like these school tell them so they just quit and I have seen this happen more then twice I don’t thing you can put the full blame on the middle and high schools though they don’t help but for the most part it is the kids and how times are diffident think about if you are carpenter our mechanic our a wood worker you tell your kids to go to college and get a good job that pays and is easy for most parents that do this thing like carpenter,mechanic our wood worker don’t want there kids to share in doing this for the fear of they might want to do this for a living and parents know how hard it is to make a living at it and for school with the hard times and less kids showing interested in these things they have to cut something and they look at what is not being used that much and what will bring less grief on them thing about you don’t see construction company our mechanic shop holding fund raiser to give to school like you do with music and the arts . that is just my 2 cents

View Chuck 's profile


88 posts in 3197 days

#18 posted 12-22-2009 03:21 AM

My 17 yo son will be graduating from high school this spring, and he wouldn’t know how to check the oil to save his life. Schools in my area are almost exclusively college prep, founded in the belief that an advanced level of education leads to higher earning potential. While there may be a certain amount of truth to this idea, an education in the industrial arts is damn useful even if you don’t follow a vocation in it. I’m afraid these kids graduate with a major knowledge deficiency.

-- Chuck, Washington D.C.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18269 posts in 3673 days

#19 posted 12-22-2009 03:29 AM

There is definitely a deficiency. Try handing a teen or a 20 something a $10, a $1 and 2 pennies expecting to get a $5 and a quarter in change; see what happens :-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View cabinetmaster's profile


10874 posts in 3556 days

#20 posted 12-22-2009 03:53 AM

Hey Topa…............ I have to disagree with your earlier comment. I took shop in 7 and 8 grade of Jr High and my freshnman year in high school. That is all the formal school I had. The rest I learned by reading and doing. I do consider myself a mastercraftsman too. And I do take pride in my work, something a lot of people I see in the trade don’t do. Of course, I have over 30 years experience too.

-- Jerry--A man can never have enough tools or clamps

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18269 posts in 3673 days

#21 posted 12-22-2009 04:12 AM

If you look, you will always find an exception to every general statement. I doubt if you went from high school directly to owning your own cabinet shop, did you?

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View cabinetmaster's profile


10874 posts in 3556 days

#22 posted 12-22-2009 04:17 AM

You are right Topa, I worked for several cabinet shops over the years before I had my own. But working for someone else now, I don’t have the headaches of ownership anymore. And I can spend more time perfecting my learning skills too…

-- Jerry--A man can never have enough tools or clamps

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18269 posts in 3673 days

#23 posted 12-22-2009 04:21 AM

WEll, working for those cabinet shops sort of constitutes an apprenticeship, doesn’t it? :-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View BlankMan's profile


1490 posts in 3350 days

#24 posted 12-22-2009 09:30 AM

Well said! I enjoyed woodworking and metalworking classes in Junior High, others should have that same opportunity. Can you send that to the Milwaukee Public School System too please? :)

-- -Curt, Milwaukee, WI

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3771 days

#25 posted 12-22-2009 01:32 PM

I totally agree with what is being said here but there is another factor to consider. When I graduated from high school in 1965 I went to a vocational school for two years (School is no longer there). One year was cabinet/furniture construction and the other year was house construction where we built a house. Then I went on and got a teaching degree in industrial arts. I taught for five years and then got out of teaching. I know there is more to life than money but my first teaching job payed $6450 a year. I always heard “You only work 9 months a year”. Even though I had to live for twelve. We pay more to take care of our pets in this country than we do to educate our kids. We are loosing the people to teach these classes as will for this reason. I made five times that amount the first year I started working for prison industries.

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

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