Margery E. Goldberg of the Zenith Community Arts Foundation cuts the wood (instead of a ribbon) in Northwest at the mobile woodshop that will be an experimental learning center. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)
Margery E. Goldberg of the Zenith Community Arts Foundation cuts the wood (instead of a ribbon) in Northwest at the mobile woodshop that will be an experimental learning center. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

A nonprofit that promotes woodworking as an art form launched a mobile woodshop on Nov. 19 designed to primarily educate students at Ballou Senior High School’s STAY Opportunity Academy in Ward 8 in the trade of carpentry.

The Zenith Community Arts Foundation [ZCAF] formally introduced the mobile woodshop to the public at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its headquarters in Northwest. The woodshop will serve as an experimental classroom in a 20-foot truck to instruct students in the fundamentals and skills of woodworking. The woodshop stands as a component in the foundation’s Pre-Apprenticeship Carpentry Training [PACT] program.

“Carpentry is the number one endangered trade in the country according to the National Association of Home Builders,” said Margery E. Goldberg, the Zenith Foundation’s founder and director.

“This mobile workshop has been a dream of mine for years. Our goal is to teach skills to a new generation, specifically woodworking and carpentry. Additionally, we will raise public awareness about community involvement, the value of our urban forest to the city, local economy and the environment. Access to woodworking education is getting harder and harder to find as woodshops are removed from schools,” she said.

In September, the ZCAF started PACT to counter the national labor shortages in the trades.

A Sept. 21 article on the Staffing Industry Analysts website reveals since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, demand for home services has steadily increased and the skilled trades have been experiencing a chronic labor shortage. The article reported 68% of tradespeople have struggled to hire skilled workers and more than one-third, 35%, are slightly or extremely understaffed.

In addition, the article said over half of tradespeople, 52%, say a lack of available workers has stunted their growth and 68% reported they could grow their business if they could find more available workers.

Specifics of the PACT Program

PACT offers tuition-free training and weekly stipends to Ballou STAY Opportunity Academy students. The students are educated in the curriculum of the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters which shepherds its participants in the direction of industry certificates and competitive paid apprenticeships upon course completion.

The mobile woodshop serves as a facility where students can learn and practice their skills from math to handling tools and working on and finishing projects. Utilizing the woodshop, ZCAF can focus on teaching professional skills to people interested in a career in finish and rough carpentry and home improvement projects and for those interested in artistic applications and furniture building.

Mobile Woodshop Feted for its Novelty

Goldberg said the creation of the mobile woodshop came about through grants from such organizations as Events DC, the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities and individual donors. Greg O’Dell, the president and CEO of Events DC, fully embraced the woodshop.

“We were happy to provide grant support for this project,” O’Dell said. “Programs like this help D.C. residents get and keep jobs.”

Kunta Bedney, who serves as the council representative for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, agreed with O’Dell.

“There are a lot of opportunities for D.C. residents to get jobs in the carpentry industry,” he said. “For many years, high schools were pushing college as a way to a comfortable life but not pushing the trades. We now have a global shortage of people in the trades.”

“There is always work for carpenters. And we are in a union, so carpenters have access to good wages, benefits and a network that includes assisting with employment. If you complete an apprenticeship program, you can get a job anywhere in America,” Bedney said.

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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