A key component to a healthy and vibrant hardwood flooring industry is providing inspiration and education to the next generation. To help push our industry forward and provide students a comprehensive view of available opportunities, North Carolina State University has partnered with NWFA to offer its curriculum to students.
“NWFA is a great organization that has demonstrated that it will do absolutely everything to help not just our students, but the entire industry,” explains Guillermo Velarde, Program Manager, Wood Products Technical Services Program Manager at the school’s College of Natural Resources. “They have shown our students that they can be anything from an installer to the president of a company.”
Velarde works in North Carolina State University’s Department of Forest Biomaterials, whose function is to help grow and improve the wood industry.
“We are an independent third-party heavily involved with the wood flooring industry through the NWFA and its members. We specialize in making hardwood products better and improving manufacturing processes as new technology emerges,” says Velarde.
“It’s also important that everyone from the manufacturer to the consumer better understands that wood is great. We want to take full advantage of the amazing performance and benefits wood has to offer and the environmental sustainability that these products offer. We do whatever we can to make the whole industry better, and I know the NWFA is there with us to accomplish that goal.”
One way the NWFA is working with Velarde and his students is via the NWFAU.
“We feel it is vital to partner with the NWFA to teach our students. We have more than 100 students in our program, and we give each of them access to the NWFA University,” notes Velarde. “Using the NWFA courses, we can supplement what our students learn here at school. The curriculum gives the students an in-depth knowledge that’s just not available anywhere else.”
Velarde explains that students can access information from NWFAU on their own time, but also are using the materials more formally as a part of classroom assignments. Students currently using the NWFAU agree that the curriculum has been vital to their education and their broader understanding of the hardwood industry.
“I’ve gotten exposure to the NWFA courses not only because of my major, but because I work at a wood products technical services lab. They have allowed me incredible exposure to the entire industry,” says Madeline Samet, a North Carolina State University student majoring in Sustainable Materials and Technology. “Being able to have access to the NWFA has expanded my knowledge in so many ways. I’ve taken every module that has been made available, and it has been wonderful.”
Samet says that with the help of the NWFA, she has learned about how the industry is growing and the many different types of jobs that are available to her and her peers as they prepare to enter the workforce.
“You can’t go wrong getting involved in this industry, and we’ve found that the NWFA is a great way of getting exposure, whether it be taking the courses, attending events like the Virtual Expo, or getting involved with the Emerging Leaders program,” says Samet.
One particularly popular education module for students has been sales, as it is uniquely suited to give participants a broad overview of the industry as a whole.
“We started using all the modules that were available that did not require in-person training. One that we really focused on was the sales module. It was important for students to understand the different stages of the industry. Our students are able to see, in a virtual environment, that the hardwood flooring industry is not just manufacturing a product. It has a lot of different moving parts to it,” explains Velarde. “The knowledge that they receive easily can be applied to so many different areas of the supply chain. If our students do not get this kind of exposure to the industry, there’s simply no way for them to know everything that potentially is out there for them.”