Skip to main content

Greater West Town: Connecting Successfully with the Woodworking Industry

Everyone knows, our community needs jobs.  Many organizations and government offices have a mission to get people working.  What does it take to be successful?

Number 1.  Real opportunity - agencies and their job developers must identify industries and jobs which are growing and hiring, are located accessibly, and provide decent wages that can support a family.  These opportunities should provide the potential for advancement over time.

Number 2.  Real skills - agencies must work with community residents to develop proficiency in a skill needed on the job in these industries, empowering individuals to overcome any barriers to employment, rehearsing the various aspects of the job application process, and assuring that students learn substantial, technical skills that are in demand.  In most cases, the more specific the skills, the better.

Number 3.  Connection - agencies must connect community residents who have learned the real skills with companies having the real opportunities.  This requires a detailed understanding of the company's needs and of the person's background and experience.  With this understanding, a careful matching process can be conducted with the best chance of long-term success.  Agencies must operate according to the expectations of the business world: answering phones by the third ring, returning calls the same day, and sending candidates out for interviews within 2 - 3 days maximum. 

Greater West Town's Woodworkers Training Program is an excellent model for the success of this strategy.  For 20 years Greater West Town has been successfully developing its relationships to individuals and their companies in the woodworking industry.  It is a small industry in Chicago, but it provides ongoing opportunity for skills training on the job and advancement to higher levels of quality production and responsibility and pay.  Companies produce high-end custom cabinetry, furniture, picture frames, store fixtures, millwork, musical instruments, and exhibits.  Average wages at the entry-level end of the spectrum are about $11 per hour. 

Greater West Town has a state-of-the-art training facility at 500 N. Sacramento Boulevard.  There are three skilled professionals from the industry on staff as instructors in a 7,000 sq. ft. shop.  During 15 weeks of training, students are introduced step-by-step to the skills and knowledge essential for an entry-level job: safe practices, accurate measuring, reading blueprints, setting up and operating table, miter, and band saws, planer & jointer, portable power tools, and veneer press.  Students build tables, cabinets, and storage units, which they take home once finished.  They get a chance to repeat processes until they develop proficiency and confidence in their skills.

At the end of training, Greater West Town works with graduates for job placement.  Consistently 85% or more of students graduating get working full-time in jobs in the wood products manufacturing industry.  They are apprentice cabinetmakers, machine operators, counter top fabricators, installers, assemblers, sanders, and CNC operators.  The established relationships with companies are reinforced by the credibility of successful graduates working on the job.  This creates the job orders which benefit successive graduates and get them working.

Evidence of GWTP's strong industry connections is provided by a recent article posted to Woodworking Network, a Vance Publishing Corporation publication, and published in Custom Woodworking Business.  Click the following link to read the article:


The article discusses the woodworking industry's challenge in attracting new, skilled workers.  It shows how Greater West Town's training fills a gap in marketing woodworking as a career option, and how its  450 hours of training build a solid base of skills from which interested individuals can launch a career as a woodworker.  The article also describes how GWTP keeps current with latest equipment and practices in the industry.


Community residents who are in need of skills to get a job can contact Greater West Town for training.  Training is at no cost to eligible applicants.  The next 450-hour class will start in late May.  Training hours are 7:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.,  Monday - Friday.  Interested individuals can call 312-563-9570 or visit, or email

Keywords: business, career, education, employment, Job, manufacturing, training, wood, work

Posted in Business News, Education Initiatives