How to roll up your sleeves and get down to business


Dropped in on Tom Hillstead’s cabinet-making class. Only three weeks in to the semester, students were still learning how to run the machinery, and were working on small projects.

Oliver Dority, 20 (in front) and 19-year-old Johnny Lyles, both of St. Paul were planing lumber and preparing to cut it into smaller pieces.

Like Speaks from the culinary program, both said they came to the college on the reputation of the program and knowledge of the instructor.

For Lyles, who says he likes using his hands, Saint Paul College is practically a family tradition:

“My mom goes here now, my second-oldest brother goes here, and two of my (relatives) are going here.”

Because they’re still in the early stages of instruction, Hillstead said, they’re learning the trade old-school style. In the second semester they’ll start using technology, such as learning how to use computers to design and cut wood components that machines will then cut out.

Dority sounds like he’s ready to work:

“I heard if you go through the program well, you’ll have a good placement for a job.”

Indeed, students such as Dority and Lyles face an industry that is “very busy right now,” Hillstead said. The placement rate for those with a one-year diploma is about 70-75 percent, and graduates can get jobs working for businesses such as furniture makers, kitchen-cabinet and fixture manufacturers.