Last year at this time I stood before you as your Wooden Globe Educator of the Year. I was in an unusual place both mentally and physically. It seemed like an out-of- body experience. I shared with you that I was advising a student in my office, when I saw on my computer that we had been chosen for the Wooden Globe. My response was holy ------ we won. The student said Mr. Mattson you just said a bad word!! Then, when I was asked to be your keynote speaker …. Well you can just imagine what I said.
This past year has been astonishing, to say the least. The Wooden Globe award has literally changed my life, and the lives of hundreds of students and even some industry leaders. I would like to walk you through the past year and show you how it has shaped a vision for the future.
I would like to take you back to the story of Mary. The young homeless Hispanic girl who made the small table in my classroom and in tears told me the story of how it would be a perfect dining room table for her and her four little brothers and sisters in the back seat of the old car they were living in. It was so shocking that it literally inspired me to go far beyond my abilities as a teacher and to try and change a broken system. There is something very wrong about throwing away human beings. It was a WOW moment for me!
The WMIA award was another WOW moment that forced my eyes to open. What happened during my acceptance speech was nothing short of a miracle. My desired outcome of that speech was to stand in front of an audience and humbly accept an award that was beyond comprehension for me. The result however was much different. What happened was it seemed to challenge the entire industry and me, to move out of our comfort zones. You wanted to make a difference in the lives of youth and our industry. You committed resources of more than one million dollars to our program in Salem, Oregon.
I was suddenly overwhelmed! I began to dream what we could do with these types of resources not only at North Salem High School but schools all over this nation. With all the media coverage and press and the influx of industry and educational leaders visiting our facility, my vision was actually becoming a possibility.
• Educators began to request our model of education in their school districts.
• Employers began to visit our classroom.
• An employer waiting list for our graduates began to materialize.
• Manufacturers of high tech machinery began to offer their amazing machines for our classrooms.
Students’ futures were being formed right before my eyes. Young people with only marginal prior support were all of a sudden valued. Amazing!
Even as industry stepped forward with a flood of support, challenges loomed on the horizon.
Industry thrives on taking risks, being nimble and rewarding innovation. The educational system has succeeded for over 200 years by relying on stability, purposeful planning and tried and true practices. Some of the changes we are trying to implement created a host of philosophical, structural and systematic challenges for an organization as large an unwieldy as public education.
These challenges have required us to slow down, moderate our plan and adjust our timeline. But don't worry. Even those high tech, efficient jets that flew us all to this beautiful island in the middle of the ocean required a long runway before takeoff.
While our school and the system may have had to temporarily decline some of your generous support - and believe me, that was no easy task - we have not diminished our passion or backed away from the task in front of us. Providing today's students with the training, skills and values needed to enter this industry is critical. It will ultimately improve their lives and our industry.
While it may be uncomfortable or seem to go against common sense, a successful partnership between the educational system and industry will require some unlikely compromise. Industry must provide the resources and expertise needed for what schools might consider risky or innovative change. Schools, on the other hand, can provide the kind of mindful planning and slow lift off that may seem burdensome to those of us who like to run. It takes resources, courage, planning and patience to re-tool a factory and that is what we are trying to do.
I especially want to thank Stiles Machinery, Timesavers, and SCM Group for their belief in my vision and their extreme patience.
All who are in business understand the trials of temporary setbacks. It is often stated that many business individuals never achieved their ultimate potential until they have faced the trial of closing down a company they created. Years ago, I experienced this unpleasant event and I gained wisdom. The wisdom I gained was to brutally re-evaluate all factors of the business and most importantly be truthful with myself.
We did this with our education program. We re-evaluated the leadership and the product we are producing, determined why our product is in demand and how we could keep it in demand.
• We re-established in our minds that the products we produce are young people who understand they are valued by society.
• We determined the reason our product is in demand is because we are producing high school students who are taught the necessary principles of life. They are schooled in the process of hands on application of Lean Manufacturing. They are placed in real life manufacturing scenarios where they are forced to think critically. And we try to model for them how to be gracious human beings. They are ready for the job market with an annual compensation package of $50,000.00. Or, they are ready for the university.
The true test is how to stay on top.
How can we do this?
WMIA has helped me answer this question. You shot out of your chairs last year and indicated that you needed qualified workers. You showed you needed our product of educated employees. The future of this industry is dependent upon the success of this product.
How do your companies get these employees?
We have proven that given the right kind of instruction and provided the right kind of technology, students, can effectively transition from High School directly into Woods Manufacturing companies.
For the past three years, woods manufacturing companies have hired some of our students and made them full time employees. Custom Source Woodworking Olympia, Washington, Brian’s Cabinets, Bend, Oregon, and Pacific Pine Products Lakeview, Oregon, recently, offered employment options to more than 20- plus graduates that exceed one million dollars.
• These companies have invested cash and time into our students and program.
• They spend time in the classroom getting to know the students and to build relationships.
• Students are encouraged to communicate directly with the leaders of their companies.
• They are involved in the development of our curriculum to keep us relevant.
• They organize personal visits for the students to visit their companies.
These partnerships have taught us many things. Employers have determined that it fills employee voids and it has seriously impacted in a positive way their bottom lines.
The challenge is we cannot produce enough of the product - educated employees.
How can we produce enough educated employees?
Nancy Fister of the AWFS Education Committee recently told me this. “The workforce shortage is our problem and so far no one on the outside is fixing it for us. If we can just change our mindset and accept that we must take it on, then we begin by incorporating into the business plan, by budgeting for it, by committing staff time to it.”
I said to her. I am going to speak to the audience that I believe is motivated to begin to make this happen. Nancy went on to say, “They need to get their local schools to implement North Salem High School’s woods education model. To do this, we need to give them some guidelines.”
Nancy produced the documents that explain in detail just how to begin. Some of these guidelines are patterned after our model at North Salem High School. There are guidelines to establishing a classroom presence, inviting educators to your companies, Internships, and In-kind donations. This will allow you to establish a presence in education programs in your cities and counties.
My wife, Rosemary and I will have some of this information available for you at the Industry Contact discussion tables on Thursday.
I believe that our Woods program can be duplicated in other schools. This has been proven by a few woods teachers who after observing our classrooms implemented our model in their schools. But, as I shared with you earlier, America’s education system cannot react nearly as quickly as the business community.
I would like to share with you what has been taking form in my mind. I have had the immense pleasure of meeting and brain storming with some amazing leaders over the past twelve months. These leaders represent their areas of expertise in the fields of education, business, law, politics, and at risk youth specialists. They have come from all over this nation. I never dreamed I would be talking about the futures of young people with individuals of their stature. It has truly been special for me.
These individuals have encouraged me to implement my vision and to have the courage to move forward. They have offered me support beyond what I thought possible.
I would like to share this with you. It is the first time I have discussed this in public.
Over the past two years we have been inundated with visitors that want to model this program. It has become overwhelming for me. I want to help, but there is not enough time to coach individuals about our model, and teach a couple hundred students per day.
What if the woods industry invested some of its resources in producing its own model of classroom education in a cutting edge training center? It funds its own educational facility with state of the art technology, machinery and education. It would look like a real manufacturing company producing real products. The instructional staff will know all that is required to teach and train young people to enter the woods industry.
Where will the students come from?
Large nonprofits like Job Growers, Habitat for Humanity and Boys and Girls Club have potential students at risk ages 17-27 that want to be educated. Also, education programs like our program can possibly partner with a Youth Training Center. These organizations want to be involved and can help with staffing, facilities, resources and providing students.
How will that help an entire industry?
Students will be trained in Woods curriculum and development of soft skills for six to twelve months in a real manufacturing environment. In addition, this facility will be an education model for districts and teachers from around this nation to be trained on how to lead the new Woods Manufacturing programs in schools. Districts could pay for this training of their instructors at this facility. A team of experienced educators could be hired as advisors to go into schools to implement or modernize a Woods program. This team can also follow up monthly and even provide the trained instructors to teach their programs. WMIA members can coach and sell the technology and machines that are needed in the classrooms.
All of a sudden the schools will be producing future employees for the Woods Industry and also give thousands of students the chance of producing real products using their minds and hands.
Here is an example of what the outcome will look like as a result of this training center
At North Salem High School, four years ago, three boys entered our program. Their names are Moises, Jorge, and Johnny. These boys are Hispanic, first generation Americans. As freshman they were English language learners. Their attendance was poor. They had limited education assets. There was a strong possibility they would not earn enough credits to graduate.
These boys however, began to be inspired with our instructional methods. They began to form a strong alliance with each other. They began to be achievers. They were becoming young men. They soon became known as the “Three Amigos”.
• Four years later they are the poster children of our program.
• They are the leaders of the Advanced Cabinet Manufacturing class.
• They all have been offered three, full time positions in the woods industry.
• Oregon State University, who will be modeling our program at the School of Forestry, has offered them scholarships to help build OSU’s Woods program.
• All have attended the Chidwick School of Woodworking in Montana.
• Moises Mendoza is a Ford Scholar finalist and will attend Willamette University and desires to become an attorney employed by the woods industry.
• Jorge will be working for Joe Wadsworth learning manufacturing at Custom Source Woodworking, Olympia, Washington.
• Johnny will work directly for Doug Lathin, President of C&R Remodeling, Salem, Oregon.
These young men represent why I do what I do and my vision is to have these types of young people in your companies.
The following short video is about them and other outstanding young people. Please be mindful that most of these young people were “at risk” when they entered our classrooms.
A member of this industry said something to me that challenged me. “Dean you are a big thinker and it would be great if we had a cutting edge training center. Personally I don’t think this industry has the money to put behind an ongoing concern like that, that they are going to start small and locally, but you never know.”
I shared with you earlier that I have experienced the hardship of closing a business. As challenging as that was, I suffered an even bigger loss. I lost my wife, Ann, to cancer after 31 years of marriage. That taught me that time is short and no technology or money could save her. But, an incredible gift remained, our two daughters. They needed me to invest all the time and resources that I had left to help them with their futures.
I have finally figured out my main reason for living. This is why I now teach young people. I am investing in their lives just as I did with our daughters.
I was told by some people after my wife passed away I would never be happy again. I wondered myself… early on. I chose to rely on faith and the desire to find joy again. It is a blessing I did not listen to them.
My lovely wife, Rosemary, is here to prove I am fulfilled and happy. And by the way, we have four grandchildren and another on the way!
A few days ago, on my birthday, Rosemary gave me a small book about a short poem titled “The Dash” I would like to read it to you.
(Poem removed. Poem’s author, Linda Ellis, www.lindaellis.net, refuses to grant permission for reproduction.)
I stand before you today as a man who has been broken and rebounded. I don’t have many answers for you today but one thing I can share with you is this thought. When my life is over, it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove. The world I leave may be different because I was important in the life of some young people.
My vision and passion is to help young people be successful in life. I have used the magic of wood and woodworking to help me. But in every school throughout this great nation are students like the ones I serve. Some of these young people may work for you someday.
You, the members of the WMIA, represent the survivors of the most recent recession. You have successfully climbed that mountain. But, now there needs to be a new mountain to climb. We all have learned that we grow the most when we sacrifice.
I have shared with you my vision. I challenge this great organization to help make a difference in youth and in turn it will help an entire industry and country. It has been proven that if someone builds it, they will fill it. I will make you a promise. If you provide the means for a youth training center, I will commit to help build it and help lead it.
It has been one of the greatest honors of my lifetime to be your 2013 Wooden Globe Educator of the Year.
(Speech delivered April 30, 2014 at the Woodworking Industry Conference.)