Several years ago, UTEC incorporated a new social enterprise into its existing workforce development programs: woodworking and furniture design. Like the other programs, the woodworking program is designed to operate as a mini business within UTEC’s model, with the expectation that, over time, it will help increase UTEC’s fiscal sustainability by generating income, while simultaneously providing its youth with employment as well as critical on-the-job training.
Now, in early 2017, all signs are pointed in the right direction. With a lot of hard work, along with the critical assistance of several business partners, the woodworking program is humming right along. Every weekday the woodshop is fully staffed – with up to 8 young people closely supervised by the Woodworking Program Manager – and busily building and finishing a variety of high-quality products.
To date, the most popular and best known of these products is the series of handmade cutting boards that the woodshop crew has been creating now for several months. These beautiful boards, made from reclaimed locally-sourced east coast hardwoods donated by partner Keiver-Willard Lumber Corp., offer great durability and years of service, and have proven to be very popular among consumers, both nationally and locally.
During the recent holiday season, for instance, nearly 500 of these boards were sold, thanks in large part to our key partners:
- On a national level, Preserve Products sells our boards online
- On a regional level, Whole Foods Market offers them in a dozen markets throughout eastern Massachusetts
- And, here in Lowell, you can find our boards at Red & White Market (at Mill #5) and at COOL at the Canalway.
None of this program’s success would have been possible without the support of our above-mentioned partners. We believe our partners, along with so many of our supporters who have purchased these products, see genuine social value in this win-win equation: a lovely and useful product built from materials diverted from the waste stream and hand made by proven risk youth who are getting paid while gaining valuable on-the-job experience.
Click here to view a brief video about our cutting boards and partnership with Whole Foods Market.
Source: Lowell Sun