Scope, Definition, Focus


This page has been edited 63 times. The last was made by- gheuer gheuer on Feb 13, 2013 5:54 pm


Why Skill Standards?

  1. Professional recognition for our skills
  2. Identify the skills required
  3. Provide benchmarks for performance
  4. Help trainers respond to industry requirements
  5. Foundation for credentials
  6. Validation of accredited training programs

Use Skill Standards . . .

  • to develop training and curricula
  • to develop a credentialing program
  • to define job requirements
  • to recruit woodworking professionals
  • to plan career learning and development paths
  • to enhance labor value and mobility
The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America [WCA] is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization actively promoting a skilled work force for the advanced woodworking industry in the United States and Canada. The Woodwork Career Alliance has developed, and will continue to maintain and improve, written Skill Standards to support the woodworking industry in evaluating productive woodworkers. It sponsors a voluntary assessment program which allows woodworkers to demonstrate their competency in the Skills and earn credentials recognized nationwide.

Summary of the initial Skill Standards feasibility study ending in 2006:


1.1 Competency-based Skill Standards Defined

"An observable, measurable level of achievement or performance which is applied to a woodworking skill or knowledge area."

Definitions of Skill Standard Levels:

Level 1- Basic woodworking skills - Output oriented

  • Entry level skills. Woodworkers at this level will have skills sufficient to do woodworking tasks as assigned, work safely, and be open to learn additional skills. Level 1 woodworkers will require a high level of supervision; have limited ability to make independent decisions.

  • Level 1 woodworkers will:
  • - Exhibit awareness and understanding of woodworking safety rules and practices.
  • - Complete woodworking tasks and operations on machines that are set-up for them.
  • - Use hand tools and portable power tools safely and effectively
  • - Make parts to specification

Level 2 – Intermediate woodworking skills - Set-up oriented

  • Woodworkers at this level will have skills sufficient to do their own set-ups of machines and tooling. They will exhibit knowledge and understanding of woodworking tools and materials. Level 2 woodworkers will require less supervision and oversight; have a moderate responsibility to make independent decisions.

  • Level 2 woodworkers will:
  • - Apply all the skills and knowledge of Level 1 woodworkers
  • - Complete their own set-ups of machines and tools. (install tooling, set fences and stops, set tool positions, feeds & speeds, etc.)
  • - Be able to use jigs and fixtures in addition to standard fences and guides.
  • - Read and understand prints and specifications
  • - Select tooling and materials to meet the specifications
  • - Be able to identify and use various wood and wood-based materials
  • - Be able to select adhesives, abrasives and fasteners to meet the specifications
  • . Use hand tools at an advanced skill level, as appropriate

Level 3 – Advanced woodworking skills - Solutions oriented

  • Woodworkers at this level will be able to apply their skills and knowledge of woodworking to solve problems of design and manufacturing. Level 3 woodworkers will work independently and be able to supervise and instruct Level 1 and Level 2 woodworkers; will have a high ability to make independent decisions.

  • Level 3 woodworkers will:
  • - Select materials and joinery to meet job requirements
  • - Make advanced machine and tool set-ups, including the use of CNC
  • - Create programs for CNC operated machines
  • - Design and build jigs and fixtures to meet manufacturing requirements
  • - Calculate machine and tool feeds and speeds, based on tooling and material specifications
  • - Use hand tools at a high skill level, as appropriate

  • The outline above is not complete, and is intended as a beginning. I have not included such things as basic machine maintenance (installing knives, adjusting for heeling, squaring and paralleling fences, etc.), tool sharpening, finishing, or other important woodworking skills, including project planning and people skills.
While we have three levels for each tool, there must be an understanding that some tools may NOT have a Level 1 due to their complexity; or might not have a Level 3 because the tool is so simple. Most important, we must not confuse 'job descriptions' with observable, measurable operations for a specific tool. The 'collection-of-tools-and-levels' which would make up job descriptions will come later.

1.2 Hard and Soft Skills

A great deal has been written about woodworking skill standards. The so-called soft skills (behavioral and cognitive), are vital to the success of any program. They are well documented by existing work, notably the well-known Bates Voice of the Industry, published in 1998. It is the intent of the Woodwork Career Alliance to seek permission to adopt and include the Bates work in our standards, and to supplement that work (and others) with specific, observable, measurable technical skill standards. It is these hard skills (technical) which will be the main focus for our work for the next few years.

1.3 Focus - Three Options

  • 1.3.1 Job Description Focus

The "job description" method of writing skill documents has many proponents. Indeed, the outcome of writing specific, measurable standards will result in easily understandable job descriptions based on combining a list of the individual standards into a workable set defining the skills and performance levels required that job. A job description without measurable performance skills, however, such as simple job descriptions often seen, i.e. "… shall demonstrate skill operating the table saw …", is not sufficient to define the desired level of "skill" required.
  • 1.3.2 General Operational Focus

The "operational" focus is also a valid approach to writing standards. Using such general terms a cutting operations, boring operations, abrading operations, shaping operations helps focus the reader's thinking on a specific functional area of woodworking. An attempt to write observable, measurable standards for all the skills required for cutting operations usually brings the writer to an understanding that a specific performance on a specific machine is the only effective way to define those operations.
  • 1.3.3 Machine/Tool Focus

The "machine or tool" focus quickly rises to the top as the preferred way to write observable, measurable levels of achievement for those technical skills associated with advanced woodworking operations, including safety considerations. The skill standard will provide the worker, the employer and the teacher with specific goals that must be met. The achievement of these goals can then be documented in the skill standards credential.
The WCA writing teams have adopted this focus for the Skill Standards.

1.4 Use of the Skill Standards

The Skill Standards are used by woodworkers to validate their skill and experience. They are used by employers to assess the skill levels of their employees, or define job descriptions for hiring and compensation levels. They guide schools or companies in defining and creating training opportunities and career paths.
  • 1.4.1 Achieving the Credential

• Experienced woodworkers are able to earn the credentials by demonstrating the requisite skills and knowledge. This is done through testing or demonstration at at the workers’ place of employment or at a designated testing site.
• New or slightly experienced woodworkers will likely need training to achieve the requisite skill levels before testing. This training could be through a school program or in the workplace.
  • 1.4.2 Training to Achieve the Credential

It is not expected that every woodworker will have access to every tool, or need to achieve competency in every skill described in the completed skill standards. Company standard operating procedures and job descriptions will naturally limit the scope of tools and tooling available. Woodworkers are credentialed for any or all of the skill standards, as needed.
• Woodworkers seeking credentials must have access to machine tools and necessary tooling to meet the performance requirements set forth in the skill standards. The time-availability and condition of the tools and tooling must be sufficient so as not to unduly limit the achievement of the performance goals.
• Specific brands and models of tools, tooling, or measuring devices will not be specified by the standards.
• In any training program, all equipment and tooling must address the following issues:
    • • Safety: Equipment and tooling must have all shields, guards, stops, and other safety devised in place, operable, and used.
    • • Type and Quality: Equipment, tooling, and measuring devices used must be of the same type and quality found in the workplace, and must be of sufficient quality to meet program goals and allow woodworkers to develop the competencies required to meet or exceed the standards.
    • • Maintenance: The tools, tooling, and measuring devices must have preventive maintenance schedules, including recalibration and reconditioning, so as to minimize downtime.
    • • Hand Tools: Woodworkers should be encouraged to purchase and own a basic hand tool set (to be defined) for the purpose of meeting the skills standards.

1.5 Archive of Links to Other Skill Standards

American Culinary Federation, since 1929

1.6 Certification – Faster than a Speeding Bullet? Sharper than a Degree?

Has anyone thought of certification in terms of the shorter route to demonstrated knowledge than a degree? It takes years to get a degree (depending on the program, the interest, the time, the funding, the energy, the schedule, etc., etc.) but you can get a certification in a matter of months. Is the certification industry functioning as a de facto academy? Are we supplanting or supplementing academic degrees? Or are we complementing degree programs?

I can almost hear heads nodding and eyes rolling.

So how are we doing? As usual, some are likely doing better than others. For example, how many of us are actively working with community colleges or technical schools to get their content addressed in the curriculum? How many are working to make sure that the students in these classes are aware that they are not only graduates, but candidates for the corroborating certification that indicates not only did they complete the required courses to end up with a degree, but they paid attention while they were doing it and have a wider grasp of industry concerns, values, challenges, practices, etc., etc.

How many of us have developed programs for our industry supporters to use? Industry, it has been my experience, is decrying the lack or perceived lack or promised lack of talent and the possibility that there will not be enough people to staff their organizations. Growth will stifle while their remaining employees work to capacity. Are there pockets of people (in technical high schools, for example) who don’t really know that there are positions where an appropriate certification may count for more on a resume than a degree in an irrelevant subject?

How about working with industry: are there places where mentorship programs are (a) asking for candidates, or (b) just waiting to be created?
Georgia Patrick - http://communicators.typepad.com/cng