Traditionally, junior high and high school girls have not gravitated to woodshop classes for their electives. Fortunately for Sarah Provard, she was required to take woodshop class at her junior high school in West Jordan, Utah, just outside of Salt Lake City.

Fast-forward a few years later, and there was Sarah: a high school graduate with more than $1,750 in prize money for her woodworking accomplishments, plus new educational and training opportunities to hone her skills.

“I loved seeing all the surprised faces and having all the woodworkers come up to me and say ‘Wow! You built this?’”

Sarah won national recognition for her wood crafting talents after taking first place and the People’s Choice award in Fresh Wood, a biannual competition for high school and post-secondary woodworking students in Las Vegas. Her winning wood creation was a musically-themed armoire, which took her more than a year to design and build.

“You just have to make it ‘wow’ enough to get in,” Sarah said, in her interview with the West Jordan Journal, which declared Sarah a “Woodworking Wonder Woman.” And it’s no wonder, given her impressive wood creations like the award-winning armoire that she built with six drawers and two cabinets with shelving, adorned with piano key and music note accents. She inlaid the one-sixteenth accents into the veneer of two types of rosewood, which created one of her favorite hymns, “I Know That My Redeemer Lives.”

More than $750 worth of materials, 1,000 hours of work, and nine types of wood went into the project. But most importantly, her woodshop class skills gave her the techniques to build the award-winning armoire. She used a laser cutter to precisely shape the staff and music notes. She created the curve in the piece by gluing two pieces of lightweight plywood called “bendy wood” or “bendy ply” together. She then vacuum-sealed the wood pieces in a bag and clamped the wood to a rounded mold that she had made earlier.

“It’s a part of me,” she said in her interview with the West Wood Journal. “It’s so personal; it is my child. I will put it in my living room so it’s the first thing people see when they walk into the house.”

Sarah’s success story is just one example of how junior high and high school woodshop classes can help students gain the skills they will eventually build on to obtain good-paying jobs in the wood industry. We recently spoke with Sarah, who is now in the Architectural Manufacturing Management and Technology program at Pittsburg State. She shares her inspiration for carving a career in the wood industry.

What drew you to working with wood?

I started woodshop because I didn’t want to take a food class in junior high. It sounds a little funny, but my mom taught me how to take care of kids and cook, so I went for something I haven’t learned yet, and that was woodshop. We started out really small, like making a tic-tac-toe board and it just grew from there. I didn’t fall in love with it at first, but by the time I got to high school, I loved it and realized this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

What do you enjoy most about working with wood?

I enjoy it because you literally get to see a tree transform into a beautiful piece of furniture or cabinet — or whatever you are making. You start with raw wood and work at it — and step back in the end to see the final piece. That’s the best of all. Not only do you get to show it off, but you can be proud to say, ‘I made that.’

When did you decide the wood industry was a career option?

As a student, I knew the wood industry was a career option I wanted to pursue when I realized how amazing it felt to showcase how good my designs are. When people see my pieces that I have made, they are in awe. When I know that others like my work I know that I can make a career out of what I love to do.

What type of wood industry job are you pursuing now?

When I finish my training, I hope to become a drafter or a project manager in a company. This is so that I can build that knowledge I have from school, and eventually in the far future have a company of my own that will make custom furniture. This field is always changing and growing, so learning never stops and I love to learn new things. That is why I want to work for a company first.

You too can succeed in the wood industry

Sarah wants girls to know that they shouldn’t be intimidated by being in a woodshop class where there aren’t many other girls. She says it can be hard for girls to assert themselves in a woodshop class, but that it’s a skill worth pursuing.

During the Fresh Wood competition, she was approached by numerous experienced wood industry professionals who expressed their respect for her accomplishments.

You too can carve your path to success in the wood industry. The Wood Industry Resource Collaborative (WIRC) partners with wood trade associations to provide online resources to help you find scholarship opportunities and educational training to prepare you for a good-paying wood industry job. Start exploring your options for building your future.