In today’s podcast, we’ll hear from Sarah Smith of Sawhorse Revolution—a nonprofit that teaches high school students carpentry and architecture through community building projects. We’ll also hear from Catie Chaplan of Seattle Central College’s Wood Technology Center. Sarah and Catie are helping develop our workforce while providing an opportunity for the next generation of carpenters to learn and thrive.
Sarah Smith, executive director and co-founder of Sawhorse Revolution
After graduating from the University of Puget Sound with a degree in English literature and receiving her masters in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Sarah co-founded Sawhorse Revolution and works to develop opportunities for youth to get hands-on training.
Catie Chaplan, lead instructor of the carpentry program at the Wood Technology Center
Catie was the first woman to graduate from the Wood Technology Center's marine carpentry program, has been a professional builder for 26 years, and has operated a residential design/build company since 2002.
Both women spoke about the future of our workforce and the role we all play in supporting the next generation of industry professionals. Here were my key takeaways from their inspiring remarks:
The Future of the Construction Industry is an Inclusive One
Sawhorse Revolution works specifically with teenagers who discover they can make a real difference in their communities, in the lives of other people, and in their own surroundings—regardless of whether or not they become carpenters. Of the 554 high school students they’ve served so far, more than half of them are women, two-thirds of them are students of color, and three-quarters of them come from low-income backgrounds. Catie sees the same diversity in her students at the Wood Technology Center: a wide range of ages (from 16 to 88) and genders. It’s a stark contrast from the field today, which is nearly 80 percent white and 98 percent male. Sarah and Catie are happy that the next generation of carpenters will be a more representative one.
A Career in Construction Looks Different for Everyone
When students come to Sawhorse Revolution, they might not want to be a carpenter. On the other hand, they may discover they love it—some are asked to join job sites as soon as they graduate. This is clearly demonstrated at the Wood Technology Center as well—some of the students have never picked up a hammer before, while others want to shift disciplines or improve on their skills. Regardless, the Wood Technology Center starts with the basics: a core class in safety and professional woodworking. It doesn't matter how one's career in construction started or when—what matters is where the student is now, and the direction they're headed.
We Can Help Foster Construction Trade Careers
There are a number of barriers that prevent students from entering the trade, from a lack of training in schools (60 percent to 70 percent of schools had shop classes in the 90s; they’re now nearly obsolete in schools) to issues such as cost of living and tuition, transportation, work culture, and stress. We can help usher in the next generation of the construction trade by hiring students, offering tuition support, and investing in professional development for current employees. By fostering growth and building others up, we can all work toward a stronger workforce.
To learn more about Sawhorse Revolution, visit sawhorserevolution.org. To learn more about the Wood Technology Center, visit woodtech.seattlecentral.edu. For more information on attending future educational events, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.