What is a kerf? That was a question posed to seven male participants in a six-week pre-apprenticeship program at the Dermott Academy. The program was a project of the Carpenter’s Daughter Apprenticeship Programs (CDAP) and other agencies.

The session was developed after a year of research and collaboration with agency directors and staff.

As hands flew up in the air during a skill performance evaluation by lead carpentry instructor, Codney Washington, the preparation and effort seemed to have paid off, according to a news release.

A kerf, by the way, is the cut or channel made by a saw. The young men now understand that when cutting a board, the kerf needs to be made on the unused side of the lumber, and builders understand that just that small working knowledge about the industry can save time and money, according to the release.

Through a collaborative partnership with the Carpenter’s Daughter, Southeast Arkansas Economic Development District (SEAEDD), Arkansas Department of Human Services’ Department of Youth Services (DYS,) and Youth Opportunity Investments (YOI), a youth pre-apprenticeship for residential carpentry was completed with funding by the Workforce Innovative Opportunity Act (WIOA).

Youth at the YOI Dermott Academy have been court-ordered into DYS care. They receive treatment, education, and exposure to a variety of life skills during their time with DYS.

As part of this partnership, they will return home with a skill set they can use to contribute as members of the workforce in their communities or prepare to further their educations, according to the release.

“Developing comprehensive training programs that provide skills sets and nationally recognized credentials for youth and adults is a tough task,” according to the release. “However, Verna Perry, founder and director of CDAP is committed to making the right selections for program development and curriculum. That’s why this program was chosen — National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). It has developed a vast range of construction-related curriculum.”

CDAP believes in the structure that the NCCER curriculum provides for career and technical educational programs throughout the nation. The curriculum is accompanied by national credentials that are portable to other programs including apprenticeships, high schools, and two-year technical colleges.

“The learning does not stop here, but it jump starts the process for those who want to go further,” Perry said.

Exams for the program are proctored and performance tasks are given by certified instructors and performance evaluators to ensure that the certification awarded at the end have been earned by demonstrating skills that meet industry standards.

The group from the YOI Dermott Academy come from different counties across Arkansas and each youth faces different challenges upon returning to his community. However, these young men now have an upper hand through CDAP’s MeasureUP Residential Carpentry pre-apprenticeship program, according to the release.

Codney Washington, a general contractor in residential building and youth mentor, has first-hand knowledge on working with youth and about skills necessary to remain competitive in the construction industry, according to the release.

CDAP hopes to bring other experienced tradespeople aboard as adjunct instructors to help train and mentor youth and adults who are interested in learning construction-related trades.

“Programs like these let you share your craft and invest in your livelihood, and it lets you help develop a workforce that’s needed,” Washington said. “Some of these youth and adults do not know that this is a career that’s in high demand or a skillset that is coveted. They do not necessarily know where to begin to learn these skills.”

“By participating and building these programs, you are sharing your knowledge, closing the skills gap, and offering others an opportunity for a career they didn’t even know was an option,” he said.

Apprenticeships are structured around on-the-job training and work-related or classroom instruction. Arkansas is a part of a national initiative for expansion and diversification to promote apprenticeships, but Southeast Arkansas still has challenges.

The Carpenter’s Daughter Apprenticeship Programs work to educate small businesses on how apprenticeship works and how to create partnerships to make the process an investment.

Details: www.daughterofcarpenter.com.