10 Mar

Berea College’s Co-Op (Co-Operative) Program, often just referred to as “the student labor program”, provides its students with an excellent practical work experience throughout a student’s full years in completing their undergraduate degree.

The program gives students the opportunity to build essential career field skills as collaboration and teamwork, critical-thinking, organization and planning, communication, and other specialized skills depending on the labor position one is assigned. This alone looks excellent for a student’s resume!

There are also several labor positions, within many labor departments, for students to partake in. Some labor positions exist within larger labor departments, while other positions exists within academic departments. For example, the Woodworking position is a part of the Woodcraft Department, and the Chemistry TA position (teaching assistant) is a part of the Chemistry Department. There are many, many programs and departments to choose from.

Moreover, all students on campus are required to work at least ten hour weeks (there are some individualized exceptions of course), and the average base-pay is $7/hr., which, perhaps, isn’t the greatest in a typical job, but it is still a significant privilege for any college student wanting to make cash while in school and to pay off tuition.

Unfortunately, as a first-year, however, entering freshman students are not able to choose their position in a labor department, but they can submit an existing resume with skills and work experience to potentially receive a position they are familiar with (i.e. retail from a local supermarket to retail in the college’s store, etc.). As uprising sophomores, anyhow, many first-year students usually leave their initial labor positions for something that fulfills their career/academic pursuits.

In my case, I was fortunate to land a decent labor position in the Woodcraft Department as a woodworker (note, technically all workers in woodcraft are woodworkers). Hence, my labor position entails a lot of creativity and craft surrounding the art of cutting, manipulating, shaping, dying, gluing, and carving wood pieces. Many of the department’s great woodwork/artwork pieces can be found in the Berea College Student Craft’s Catalog (2021).

I am also greatly pleased to be a part of a great team of other student woodworkers and of amazing staff, mentors, and faculty members that make up the Woodcraft and Student Craft Department. I will be explaining more in-depth about my time in woodcraft further below.

Entering into the Berea College Labor Department

Over the summer before entering college, the labor department required us to submit a small labor form with our resume (if student’s didn’t have one, they created one using their resume-builder interface) and our preferences. I do not recall the extent to which incoming students got to fill out their preferences, or if it was even taken into heavy consideration, but some students, who I know, did receive a position according to preference or according to previous experience as based-off of the submitted resume.

Anyhow, later into the summer, about August, I had received news of my labor position for the 2021-22 academic year from my labor supervisor, Jedidiah Radosevich. I was informed of my labor schedule for the first semester, which was: M 3-5p; T N/A; W 3-5p; R N/A; F 1-5p; and every other Saturday 9a-1p (in most college/university schedules, “R” refers to Thursday).

However, my schedule would change within the first month. This due to me testing out of a lower level chemistry course, and adding a upper level course that had a lab period on Wednesday, whereas the other one did not. To compensate for the Wednesday hours, I was simply given a Tuesday 3-5p shift. Sometimes this will happen, and for my labor position, which has great hourly versatility, I was able to coordinate a time best fitting to my schedule.

Meanwhile, as I had begun labor in the first weeks, I had learned quite a lot about woodworking. I was able to learn a lot about the machines, how to use them, and their applications in cutting, sanding, and shaping wood. I will share some images below of the machinery we use to create our products.

(Planer, coming soon)

These machines are our wooden planers, they are useful for creating boards of even thickness and for flattening both sides of the board. We often use this machine in building wood table tops, cutting boards, and box surfaces. Some planers are much more precise than others.

(Large Saw, coming soon)

This is the large saw. This is the loudest machine in the room and has a great ability for cutting through large wooden pieces. The large saw is not for precise measure and should be used for sizing wood pieces to a starting material. Typically after the large saw, the wood is then taken to the planer when making cutting boards, wood table tops, and other plank-like wood projects.

(Band Saw, coming soon)

This is the band saw. It is called such because the saw is one large band with a serrated side that runs clockwise down into the table from the top. This is a much more precise cutting tool, and it allows the user to cut more freely, as in cut curvatures rather than straight cuts. We have two band saws in the woodshop, a large one capable of handling large planks and a small one for thinner planks.

(Balloon Sander, coming soon)

This is the balloon sander. At first, I never really understood why it was called a “balloon” sander, until I looked it up and discovered that it was inflated before use, which is why it is able to rotate as it does. Anyway, this tool is perfect for sanding curved wood, as in our basket bands (rings), which make up the basket. For the purpose of our craft, I’ve only seen the balloon sander used for basket bands, and not much else.

(Steamer, coming soon)

This is the steamer. Upon initial glance, it simply looks like a wooden box, but it actually stores the heat and steam that is produced from the other end (not shown). The steamer is capable of inducing “bend-ability” in wooden bands, which is how we make our basket band rings, by bending the wooden bands. The steamer can be used to bend virtually any lengthy band, but it is commonly used for basket band bending in the woodcraft department. 

These are just some of the many instruments in the woodcraft labor department. There are many more, such as the orbital sander, the table saw, the band sander, and other apparatuses which I haven’t  introduced yet. 

Over the course of a few weeks, anyhow, I was able to learn how to use each of these machines and tools for the purposes of woodcraft. I have learned a lot and I honestly find my labor position to be very therapeutic in the sense that it calls for creativity, rather than critical thinking or reasoning, which the courses in my major incessantly require.

(To be continued in the future…)

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