Do you have a favorite old adage? Well, I believe we all are living the epitome of “Making Lemonade out of Lemons.” 2020 has posed many difficulties and forced each of us to navigate a sea of uncertainty at home and at work. Even mundane day-to-day activities, such as grabbing a gallon of milk from the store, now come accompanied by an air of insecurity. However, steering our way through this “new normal” also has created new positive experiences.
For me, some of them include teaching my 86-year-old grandmother how to attend her birthday lunch via Zoom, and walking the aisles of stores and seeing almost every board game sold out. Whether it has been adapting new family “traditions” such as game night, or kindling an interest in new activities like arts and crafts or baking, one thing is for certain: we have found new ways to connect and stay engaged.
The NWFA Emerging Leaders Council, which leads the Emerging Leaders Network, had exciting plans for the 2020 NWFA Expo in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Emerging Leaders Network provides opportunities to connect and build relationships through education, networking, and involvement with projects assigned to the Council by the NWFA Board of Directors. One of the Council’s main initiatives is reaching out to younger generations and educating them about career opportunities in the wood flooring industry. It is easy to forget how vast the opportunities are within the NWFA world. From marketing to sales, from chemistry to biology, from intricate craftsmanship to day-to-day installation, our industry is filled with an abundance of opportunities and pathways toward growth.
The NWFA Expo was a prime opportunity for our Council to showcase so many of these possibilities. The Council planned to bring in students from local Wisconsin schools, taking them on a tour of the Expo tradeshow floor and highlighting the benefits within our industry. Then we were smacked with that proverbial bag of lemons, as the Expo was cancelled due to COVID-19 and moved to a digital format. However, with the help of Stephanie Owen, NWFA’s VP of Education, we were determined to still find a way to convey the importance of our industry and the boundless career opportunities offered. So, we utilized our new digital world as a means to connect with these students virtually.
Josh Krueger, the building trades teacher at Portage High School just outside of Milwaukee, was thrilled to partner with our team and provide his students a real-world discussion about our careers and what led us to the roles we each hold today. Around 20 students attended the virtual round table. The Council discussed their career paths and what a typical day looks like. This opened the door for the Council to receive some great questions from the students on a wide variety of topics such as the various species of hardwoods, what we love most about our job, and what types of job opportunities exist. We were able to interact and provide responses from a wide range of perspectives, thanks to the diversity of our Council attendees.
In conclusion, the Council was able to educate an eager group of high school students on opportunities within the NWFA realm that may have never crossed their mind without our commitment to education. We look forward to conducting additional school outreach such as this, whether it be virtual or in-person. If you are interested in learning more about the NWFA Emerging Leaders Network, please contact Stephanie Owen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Renee Tester is a member of the NWFA’s Emerging Leaders Council and VP of Marketing for Harris Flooring Group (QEP) in Johnson City, Tennessee. She can be reached at email@example.com.