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Woodworkers - What They Do


How to Advance (Advancement)
Advancement opportunities depend on education and training, seniority, and a worker's skills and initiative. Experienced woodworkers often become supervisors responsible for the work of a group of woodworkers. Others may become full-time CNC operators, designing woodwork using computer aided design software. Still others become inspectors, making sure that products are built to proper specifications. Production workers can advance into these positions by assuming additional responsibilities and attending workshops, seminars, or college programs. Those who are highly skilled may set up their own woodworking shops.

Employment
Woodworkers held about 323,300 jobs in 2008. Self-employed woodworkers accounted for 12 percent of these jobs. About 76 percent of woodworkers were employed in manufacturing. About 39 percent worked in establishments manufacturing furniture and related products, and 32 percent worked in wood product manufacturing, producing a variety of raw, intermediate, and finished woodstock. Wholesale and retail lumber dealers, furniture stores, reupholstery and furniture repair shops, and construction firms also employ woodworkers.

Woodworking jobs are found throughout the country. However, lumber and wood products-related production jobs are concentrated in the Southeast, Midwest, and Northwest, close to the supply of wood. Furniture-making jobs are more prevalent in the Southeast. Custom shops can be found everywhere, but generally are concentrated in or near highly populated areas.

Job Outlook
Employment of woodworkers is expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations. Job prospects will be excellent for highly qualified workers.

Job Growth
Employment of woodworkers is expected to grow by 6 percent during the 2008-18 decade, which is slower than the average for all occupations. Increased automation in the wood products manufacturing industry has led to slow job growth for some time, but this has been tempered in recent years by increased demand for domestic wood products. Technology has become very important to this industry, and automation has greatly reduced the number of people required to produce a finished product. While this has slowed employment growth somewhat, improved efficiency has made domestic wood products more competitive with imports.

Demand for these workers will stem from increases in population, personal income, and business expenditures and from the continuing need for repair and renovation of residential and commercial properties. Therefore, opportunities should be available for workers who specialize in items such as moldings, cabinets, stairs, and windows. Firms that focus on custom woodwork will be best able to compete against imports without transferring jobs offshore.

Employment in all woodworking specialties is highly sensitive to economic cycles. During economic downturns, workers are subject to layoffs or reductions in hours.

Prospects should be excellent for highly qualified workers. In general, opportunities for more highly skilled woodworkers will be better than for woodworkers in specialties susceptible to automation and competition from imported wood products. The need for woodworkers with technical skills to operate their increasingly advanced computerized machinery will be especially great. Workers who know how to create and execute custom designs on a computer will be in strong demand. These jobs require an understanding of wood and a strong understanding of computers—a combination that can be somewhat difficult to find.

The number of new workers entering these occupations has declined greatly in recent years, as training programs become less available or popular. Opportunities should be best for woodworkers who, through vocational education or experience, develop highly specialized woodworking skills or knowledge of CNC machine tool operation.

Earnings
Median hourly wages of cabinetmakers and bench carpenters were $13.93 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $11.14 and $17.40. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.22, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $21.73.

Median hourly wages of sawing machine setters, operators, and tenders, wood were $12.41. The middle 50 percent earned between $9.96 and $15.24. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.35, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $18.92.

Median hourly wages of woodworking machine setters, operators, and tenders, except sawing were $11.89. The middle 50 percent earned between $9.69 and $14.73. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.28, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $17.89.

Median hourly wages were $12.93 for furniture finishers and $11.57 for all other woodworkers.

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Academic Programs of Interest

Benchperson
The Benchperson Program teaches a student how to bench band saws, including the lining up of head rigs, grinding of band wheels and any other work usually performed by a Benchperson in the Lumber Manufacturing Industry. The Benchperson Program can usually be completed within 1 year. Approx. 4 weeks ...more
Circular Sawfiler
The Circular Sawfiler Program is designed to teach a student how to bench all circular and gang saws, including tensioning, welding cracks, welding on teeth and includes any other work that is usually performed by a Saw Filer in the Lumber Manufacturing Industry. The Circular Sawfiler Program can ...more
Furniture Design
The Furniture Design curriculum encompasses a broad overview of woodworking operations and technology while allowing the student time to explore areas of personal interest. The flexible and portable skills you will possess after completing a Furniture Design program are an excellent head start in the ...more
Planermill Maintenance Technician
The Planermill Maintenance Technician Program is designed to teach a student how to plan and carry out the complete overhaul of and all major repairs to planers and planermill equipment and is responsible for maintaining an inventory of replacement parts and the quality of all planermill productions. The ...more