This is "Get Woodworking Week", a week in which Tom Iovino (Tom's Workbench Blog) has gathered a rather impressive group of woodworking hobbyists, professionals, manufacturers and retailers to encourage more people, especially young people, to take up woodworkng. As a hobby it is second to none in my book, and provides not only many long hours of enjoyment, but also provides useful and beautiful items from your hobby. (hopefully!)
But I wanted to talk a bit more about woodworking as a career. We all know about the demise of 'shop class' or industrial arts from schools, and it seems that every student is indoctrinated into going to college straight out of high school even though most of them have not a clue what to do with their lives. Don't get me wrong, I'm NOT saying that education is unnecessary, far from it. But a traditional four year degree is only one path to success, and frankly an expensive one if you do not know what you want to do 'when you grow up'.
The trades as a career path hold some amazing opportunities at this point in history. The average age of licensed plumbers for example is rising rapidly and more are retiring or dying than young people are entering the trade! Yet the number of homes needing plumbing installations and repairs is certainly not going down. In many larger cities, plumbers wages are approaching that of General Practition doctors!
Many people still think that making furniture and cabinets is pretty mindless and does not require a lot of mental work. They are wrong. Modern shops rely heavily on computers to create 3D models of items to be built. Computer driven machines require a lot of mental agility to program them successfully. Even adhesives and finishes are high tech requiring an understanding of chemistry to get the best results. And the education received on the shop floor can send you off in some VERY interesting directions.
I know woodworkers who write articles and books, built a "brand" around their websites and blogs, travel the country working as consultants, use their experience in sales or development of woodworking tools, own their own shops, get paid as designers, or even some luthiers living quietly in the country building fine instruments. I even know one who makes their living selling sanding supplies online!
Like any career path, woodworking has it's dead end jobs and it's rock stars. I think it is time we take another look at woodworking, and all the trades, as a viable career path for those who find as much pleasure working with their hands as with their heads. Join us, you just may love it.