Industry Professional Speaks to High School Students about Wood Careers

Tips on Guest Speaking for Classrooms

Industry Professional Speaks to High School Students about Wood Careers

by Adria Salvatore, AWFS

In March 2021, Saúl Martín was invited to speak virtually to the woodworking classes at Redwood High School in Visalia, Calif. Martín is vice president of operations at Architectural Woodworking Company (AWC) in Southern California, a company that produces high end woodwork and furniture for commercial clients in Downtown Los Angeles. He is also a strong supporter of woodworking education programs: he is lead volunteer for the SkillsUSA California woodworking contests, he has hosted student internships and teacher externships, he serves on local school advisory committees and has hosted MFG Day (Manufacturing Day) events. In the fall of 2020, Martín and the Society of Wood Manufacturing (SWM) facilitated $60,000 in industry material and supply donations to local school programs.

In October 2020, SWM produced a video about Martín and AWC to showcase careers in the modern wood industry. A student from Jeff Eastman’s woodworking class at Redwood High School saw the video and shared it with his instructor. Eastman knew Martín through the SkillsUSA CA woodworking contests and AWFS®Fair and reached out to ask if Martín would speak to his class.

Industry Guest Speaking: the mechanics

Industry pro Saúl Martín guest speaking to Redwood High School woodworking students in March 2021 via Zoom.

Martín and Eastman agreed on two dates for the guest speaking opportunity, both for level two/intermediate classes. Redwood High School students are currently learning remotely, and courses run 90 minutes. “These classes have a large number of juniors and seniors who will be heading out into the working world soon,” says Eastman. “Distance learning during the pandemic has given us the time to explore building trades careers.”

Eastman collected questions from his students in advance and then provided those questions to Martín to prepare. Martín was able to spend the full class session with the students, covering topics ranging from his education and career in woodworking, experiences and projects at AWC, and skills needed to excel in woodworking. Martín also provided a tour of the AWC facility, using his phone to live video broadcast and headset for audio. Students were able to chat in questions during the session.

“This was a great opportunity to allow students that aren’t physically near AWC to see the facility and learn about wood manufacturing careers,” says Martín. “I hope that someday we can connect in person, but for now this is an effective way to connect with schools and students.” Students also asked fun questions such as Martín’s favorite tool (the pencil) and wood (figured redwood). In all, approximately 60 students attended the Zoom sessions.

AWFS’ Education Manager Adam Kessler and Education Director Adria Salvatore also participated in the virtual sessions. Kessler shared insight from his time at Datesweiser, a high-end commercial furniture manufacturer in Buffalo, NY. Salvatore encouraged students to seek out industry associations and trade shows to learn more about career pathways and connect with professionals.

“This was a positive experience for my students,” says Eastman. “It’s important for them to hear from those in the industry directly. I want the students to know that the jobs are there and they are challenging and require creativity and technical skills. I look forward to more events like this in the future.”


You Can Be a Guest Speaker!

Serving as a guest speaker for wood technology classes is a great way to connect directly with educators and students.

  1. Identify and reach out to a local middle school, high school, or post-secondary woodworking (or related industry) program.
  2. Let them know that you are available for guest speaking opportunities – either virtually, in person, or both.
  3. Work with the program’s instructor on scheduling, identifying the outline, selecting the platform (if virtual), gathering student questions, etc. Typically, sessions run 1 hour our less, depending on the class schedule.
  4. Relax and have fun – students generally respond best to a casual, friendly conversation rather than a formal “presentation”. They want to hear from you and what your professional day is like. If you have video or pictures, this helps. Ask them questions to engage them and guide the conversation. Common student questions include:
    1. How did you know you wanted to start a career in woodworking?
    2. What sort of education or training did your career require?
    3. What is your favorite part of your job?
    4. What is the most challenging project you have built?

A note: students are often interested in salary information. Don’t be threatened by this, you can choose to answer this question as you feel comfortable if it comes up. However, if you can provide a range or starting salary, this helps students make decisions about careers to consider. You can also talk about other compensatory or “quality of life” benefits of your job. For example, highlighting the fact that you have flexibility in your schedule to pursue outside activities, or that you also have a retirement investment account are important considerations.

Check out this document for more information about guest speaking in a classroom.

If you don’t know of any schools in your area or how to reach out to offer guest speaking services, please contact AWFS and we may be able to connect you with a school. If you are an educator and would like to connect with an industry guest speaker, please contact AWFS: or (323) 215-0311 (direct).

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