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World’s largest woodworking training facility

During an open house Oct. 27, about 400 attendees were the first to see the worldís largest woods manufacturing training facility in the formerly abandoned middle school in Peyton School District 23Jt. Several film crews were at the open house, working on independent documentaries about the Peyton Woods Manufacturing Program, including the DIY Networkís Kayleen McCabe.Dean Mattson started the program, which†currently has 40 ninth-to-12th grade students enrolled. Students are divided into three classes, each lasting about two hours per day.Mattson, program director, said he created the curriculum, which he developed while working at North Salem High School in Salem, Oregon. ìI got into education in 2008,î Mattson said. ìOriginally, Iím a corporate businessman.îAs the owner of Oregonís Mattsonís Interiors, a cabinet manufacturing company, Mattson has experience in both the business world and the woods manufacturing industry, he said. However, when the housing market crashed and he lost his first wife to cancer in 2007, Mattson said his life changed.He decided to take a different path with his career and became a career technical education teacher, Mattson said. Through the education system, Mattson said he was introduced to his new wife, who also is an educator.Working as a CTE instructor at North Salem High, Mattson said he was shocked by some of the studentsí living situations. ìThere were 42,000 students in my school district ó 28 percent were homeless,î he said. Many of the students who entered his woodworking program were not expected to go to college. But Mattson said he did not want to give up on those students, so he started incorporating business models into the classroom to teach the necessary skills they would need to secure well-paying jobs in the future.ìThe kids were not†interested in the old woods program,†but I made some contacts with some of my business contacts, and they started†sending me some equipment,î Mattson said. That equipment is the same machinery used in manufacturing facilities all over the world, and the students were learning how to use them while they were still in high school, he said.The Peyton program focuses on woodworking; and, in the process, students learn how to use woodworking machines, manufacturing equipment, software and procedures. The woodworking machines can be used to cut wood, graphite, composites and plastic.Mattson said before he knew it, donations and highly technological equipment were flooding his program. Employers were asking him to teach students skills necessary for the manufacturing industry to increase the companiesí hiring capabilities. ìI started†teaching about 258 kids per day, with another 500 on the wait list, and that was out of 1,600 students total,î he said.In 2013, Mattson said he received the Wooden Globe Award for Education from the Woodworking Machinery Industry Association, which caught the attention of manufacturing companies worldwide, as well as the eye of Mark Schultz, owner of Schultz Millwork Inc. in Peyton.Tim Kistler, Peyton School District superintendent, said Schultz asked him to make a call and ask if Kistler could visit Mattsonís program in Oregon. ìHis program was something we had been looking for years,î Kistler said.ìTim came and saw something he could not believe,î Mattson said. ìMy program shows you that this is the technology you need to learn to make a very good living. We are going to convince you of that, and the industry will come in and show you the results. If you want to learn this, you can stay in my program; if not, you can leave. I brought the†business model to education.îKistler said he told the districtís board of directors about the program; and, with their support, he asked Mattson to turn the abandoned middle school into a shop for a woods manufacturing program.Initially, Mattson said he planned to consult on the project, still knowing it would take more educators with a business background to make the project sustainable.†Jim Frohbieter, president of Peytonís school board, asked what it would take to hire me,î Mattson said. ìI thought,ëWhy would I want to leave the largest woodworking program in the world? Why would I want to leave my wife, my family, my grandkids?îThe district offered Mattson the entire middle school to turn into his own woods manufacturing facility in Peyton so he could develop a duplicate program from the one he created in Oregon.†Mattson said he realized the only way to recreate the program, not only in Peyton but also eventually across North America, was to take the first step and move to Colorado. However, he had to leave his wife and family in Oregon, he said.ìI lost my first wife to cancer, and my wife now cannot come here because she has elderly parents,î he said. ìIf I came to Colorado, I would be here on my own for three years. The only way to copy this program throughout the nation was to sacrifice the comfort of being with my†wife to do this.îMattson said his family fully supported his decision.†Since arriving in Colorado†Feb.1, Mattson said he has raised $2.7 million in in-kind donations from the woodworking industry.†Additionally, leaders in the industry have already committed more than $2 million to the development of a national training center, he said.Stephan Waldman, national vice president of marketing and communications with Stiles Machinery Inc., said the national training center would attract not only young people looking for advanced training in their first career but also people who are coming to the industry as their second career. ìIt should be a center which is going to be a model for other parts of the county,î Waldman said.The 25,000-square-foot training center is still in the planning stages but is set to open in Colorado Springs in 2017, Mattson said. It will be a pathway for advanced education or jobs in manufacturing and will also partner with the Yellow Ribbon for Military Veterans for Careers in Manufacturing, so veterans can get†the training to enter the civilian workforce with a highly desirable set of skills. A specific location in Colorado Springs has not yet been determined, he said.ìMy motto in education is, if it is right for kids, do it,î he said. ìI am not here to please administrators, I am not here to please board members. I am here to please kids.îJohn Gonzales, a senior at Peyton, is one of those kids pleased with the program. ìI had an interest in architecture and when I heard about the woodworking program, I decided to check it out,î Gonzales said. ìI am so happy that I did. It is nice to get to work with†your hands because it is not something that you get to do very often.îGonzales said his experience in the woodworking program is not only a great jumping off point for a career in architecture, which he said he may start at Yale next fall, but will also be a great option to fall back on.Schultz said the idea of hiring students with skills like Gonzales right out of high school is exciting.ìThe creation of skilled workers for woodworking has been in shambles for the last 30 years,î Waldman said. ìThe woodworking industry that we serve listed the No. 1 threat to their ongoing success was the lack of willing workers. Now, you have students coming out of this Peyton program where those instructors can specifically detail for you all of the skills that student has acquired and can give you a full workup on their potential workerís skills, like if they were reliable, if they were a safe worker ó all those things that those of us who employ people look for.îìThe things we are doing just blow me away,î Mattson said. ìI am totally humbled by this. I am just trying to serve these young people, and it seems to be going pretty well.î

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