Pathways for Woodwork and Product Design & Technology Students

I have many students not picking Woodwork and Product Design & Technology in senior years which I think is a shame

Particularly because they tell me they really enjoy the subject, they just do not see a future in it.

So to help me, help them and help you retain students and keep woodworking going, here is a list of pathways students can choose with design.

(In this article I have split University and TAFE (Applied) pathways)

University Pathways

Truth is that there aren’t as many prerequisite subjects as there used to be. But there are subjects that prepare students better for their future (like woodwork and PD&T 🙂


I like to think of design as doing something that no one has ever done before.

In all its forms the designer gets to have an impact and leave a lasting impression. Good design gets noticed and so do good designers…. and it isn’t just about looks (although they are important).

NOTE: Design at University tends to be paired with other things (i.e. business) which is a conversation to have with students.

Industrial Design

Eveything around us is designed. Most of it by industrial designers. Form your salt shaker, to your oven, to your television remote.

Industrial design is a commercial practice where common and not so common problems are considered and tinkered on and worked at until they are solved, either with a product or a service.

How does woodwork help?

Wood is one material that you can use to make products. It gives a good grounding into being able to understand and use the range of materials that industrial designers use. Along with the designing and prototyping and the creative process that is typically used in woodwork.

Product Design

I separate Product Design from Industrial Design here because I believe the focus is different. Product designers can work on software products, and really any type of offering you would call a ‘product’ (even a service can be called a product).

Industrial designers are typically aligned with industrialised things like pens, chairs, tables, aeroplanes, cars, 3D printers, etc.

Although having given this distinction in their work, the study of both seems to be very similar. At least in RMIT’s eyes. Monash splits design up in different ways (not mentioning product design).

How does woodwork help?

Building things is the essence of a product design. Learning how to create in high school should be a pre-requisite here (according me at least.)

Interior Design

Interior design is about developing understanding of the space we inhabit and it’s effect on our lives with the ability to have input and control.

It often gets covered in reality TV (renovation type shows) so students see it, but they don’t necessarily put the two together.

How does woodwork help?

Being able to understand how things are made and what goes into making an object (with woodwork) along with having a strong sense of spatial awareness and spatial reasoning are a great advantage in this line of study and work.

Last Words on Design

  • The folio produced during the final year is an asset students have when they go for interviews at Tertiary institutions and workplaces.
  • Design is a good choice for everyone, but particularly for people who like the art side more than the ‘hard science’ subjects. It gives them a chance to express themselves in a creative and practical way.
  • A subject like psychology can be used in design when looking at the user experience (a growing part of design).
  • I found a video you might like to watch and show to your students to give them a glimpse into what design is like at University (Monash Caulfield)


The engineers I know say they ‘solve problems’. Yawn. Woodworkers both create and solve problems!

I run some projects (hang time competition and popsicle stick bridge competition) that focus students creations more around function than aesthetics and workmanship. But ordinary woodworking projects are also a great into into design at University level.

Woodworking also gets engineers used to working on a factory floor which is where much of the engineering happens.

Engineering is a great pathway, particularly if students are doing science based subjects like phsyics. It does give them a leg up when it comes time to work in a real business.

NOTE: Computer Aided Design (CAD) plays a large role in what many Engineers do (Civil, mechanical, automotive, aeronautical, aerospace, etc.). So if your woodwork program covers CAD then bonus points to you!


Responsible for infrastructure, Civil Engineers are building things. Those things are a lot bigger than typical woodwork projects but the level of detail is also greater. This makes woodworking a great high school platform for this field of study and work.

Mechanical (encompassing Automotive)

Parts that are involved in a moving system are typically quite detailed. Introducing a level of detail is an important aspect of woodworking.

Aerospace (encompassing Aeronautical)

There is a big future in space and air travel. If your students want to get involved it will take plenty of study. Once they get there though they are going to need to understand detailed drawings, how different parts come together to make something and how components work together (spatial reasoning – done in Woodwork).

Last Word on Engineering

Engineering encompasses a lot of different disciplines. Here is a video that may entice students (Thanks to RMIT)



Building and selling things is the beginning of all great businesses. And someone has to start these businesses.

Advertising / Marketing

I bet you didn’t see that coming. But woodwork does identify the relationship required to a product to be able to sell it, identify features, benefits and quality amoung other things.

(It appears as though many current advertising professionals didn’t do woodwork at school :/ )

Architecture / Draftsperson

Many Architects go onto design products (Michael Graves is a good example). Products (or woodworking projects in this case) are simply a smaller version of a building. This means quicker project time whilst encompassing many of the elements of a building (sizes, materials, aesthetics, user-experience, detail, etc.)

Project Management

I put this in business although it could be it’s own separate thing. Creating a woodworking project is a project that needs to be managed.

Aspects like glue drying, and a set amount of clamps provide bottlenecks and wait periods which need to be managed. Students get a practical hands on look at project management whilst doing woodwork. It’s a pathway that also can be quite lucrative and allows for domestic and international travel.


Practical school work is the best form of school work… am I right?

In this aspect it is important that future teachers do get an understanding of what it’s like to run a practical class. Particularly with Project Based Learning being desired by many students, parents and schools.

TAFE (Applied) Pathways

Every student going into a trade can be benefited from a high school woodworking class. Particularly in terms of:

  • Detail
  • Processes
  • Introduction to working with tools
  • Similar working environment (site or factory)

But here are 3 stand outs.


I did cabinetmaking as a trade before becoming a teacher.

Learning how to use tools, the detail required and how to meet a deadline are but a few of the lessons cabinet makers use that can be learnt from highschool woodworking.


Building is a form of project management really. Managing trades and quality. There aren’t as many builders who are on the tools as their used to be (from my experience anyhow).

Learning to manage a project, understand quality required and some Year 12’s even outsource work which is a great primer for co-ordinating people to get a job done.


Machinists (wood or metal) aren’t as common as they used to be but they are still around. Learning how to use tools, and make detailed components to a plan is the cornerstone of being a machinist. And is taught in woodwork.


Thanks for reading or skipping through.

Here’s a related article you might find interesting about development in students brains when doing woodwork.

You can contact me on social media if you want to add something to the pathways list or make a comment.

I think this resource could help students identify a pathway and ideally stay in PD&T (because it is a great subject). So if you know something let me know!


I have embeded a few videos in this article that I have shown students. There’s another one about Fusion 360 (CAD) that I have also shown to classes but I couldnt’ find a place for it, so here it is.

And here’s a short one that I just found and I thought might be worth adding