Woodshop on wheels aims to rev up interest in carpentry in DC

There is a huge demand for carpenters these days, and a new program in D.C. is training young people for the trade in a unique way.

It’s using a truck that’s been converted into a woodworking classroom — the first of its kind in the D.C. region.



The truck is the yearslong dream of Margery Goldberg, founder and owner of D.C.’s Zenith Gallery, and an artist who loves to work with wood.

“Finished carpentry is the most endangered trade in the country, even now. But they say in the next couple of years, 40% of the workforce is going to be retiring,” Goldberg said at a Thursday event to celebrate the new truck.

It was billed as a ribbon-cutting, but in place of the traditional strip, Goldberg appropriately cut a piece of wood.

The 20-foot-long truck is packed with hand and power tools, lumber, other supplies and a generator. One side is fitted with innovative convertible workspaces. For example, a large circular saw can be flipped upside down and stowed away under a cabinet, clearing more space for other projects.

The Woodshop on wheels is 20 feet long.

Inside, lumber and other supplies are stored on the walls, including a saw that can be flipped upside-down to create more workspace.

On the opposite wall, more space for tools and supplies, along with a handy generator for power. The rear of the truck also includes a power liftgate.

The woodworking classroom is considered to be the first of its kind in the D.C. region.

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The program, called Pre-Apprenticeship Carpentry Training (PACT), is the first to be introduced by the Zenith Community Arts Foundation, which Goldberg founded. PACT launched in September at Ballou STAY Opportunity Academy in Southeast D.C. for students age 18-24.

It was developed in partnership with D.C.’s carpenters union. Once students complete the course, they can become a paid union apprentice, or pursue other trade jobs.

“We have students coming in with absolutely zero experience in anything,” said Austin Travis, one of the PACT teachers. “We start off teaching them how to make marks on wood, so that they can draw straight lines. So they can use tools to draw better straight lines. So they can make marks with a fineness of one sixty-fourth of an inch consistently, every time, and then how to cut perfectly, every time.”

Funding for the truck came largely through a grant from Events DC. More money came from the D.C. Commission for the Arts, and private sponsors, including real estate developer Sam Rose.

More programs are coming soon. More information can be found on the foundation’s website.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter and anchor at WTOP.

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