DC mobile woodshop seeks to spark early interest in carpentry

Not many public schools offer any kind of shop class anymore, and some students are missing out on early training that could spark an interest in carpentry and lead to a good-paying career as a result.

D.C.-based nonprofit Zenith Community Arts Foundation will roll out a mobile woodshop with a ribbon cutting Nov. 18 as an experimental classroom in a 20-foot truck to teach students woodworking skills.

Carpentry is an endangered trade, and the mobile woodshop seeks to attract new workers. (Courtesy Zenith Community Arts Foundation)

It follows the launch of its first training program in September, its Pre-Apprenticeship Carpentry Training (PACT) program.

It is initially being offered at Ballou STAY Opportunity Academy in Ward 8 for 18- to 24-year-olds who are considering a career in the building trades. Students can learn everything from math skills to handling tools and making projects.

PACT offers a certificate program for participants seeking jobs in union apprenticeship programs and local construction companies. Certification makes them eligible for union-sponsored apprenticeships or through local building trade groups.

The truck is a woodworking shop on wheels, with hand and power tools, lumber and other supplies. The truck’s classroom includes a canopy-covered classroom outside of the truck at Ballou STAY High School.

The curriculum includes carpentry and home improvement projects, as well as artistic trade skills such as furniture building.

“Carpentry is the No. 1 endangered trade in this country, according to the National Association of Home Builders,” said Zenith Community Arts Foundation founder Margery Goldberg.

“We’ve conceived the woodshop to focus on general carpentry and our focus toward the rigorous training that would support a career track due to the demand for carpenters.”



Goldberg owns Zenith Gallery in D.C., which she founded in 1978.

Goldberg said access to a woodworking education is getting harder and harder to find, as more schools no longer offer shop class as part of their curriculum.

The pre-apprenticeship carpentry training certification is for D.C. public high school students, as well as community college students, veterans and seniors.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over the next decade, 89,000 carpenter positions will become available each year. The average annual carpenter pay in 2019 was more than $48,000.

Zenith Community Arts Foundation’s partners include the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, DC Urban Forester, Events DC and Zenith Gallery.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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