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Barnwood Builders features apprentices in carpenter's training program

Two people wearing hard hats and face masks discuss a building structure

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – No one appreciates skilled, talented workers more than Mark Bowe. When the WVU alumnus and host of Barnwood Builders learned about a new WVU degree program available to apprentices, he seized the opportunity to work with them on a project at WVU Jackson’s Mill. Barnwood Builders follows Bowe and a group of fun-loving West Virginians who salvage antique log cabins and barns. The show celebrates the hard work and craftsmanship that built our nation. So it was a natural fit.

The episode will air Sunday (April 25) at 9 p.m. (EST) on the DIY Network.

In 2020, WVU announced a partnership among West Virginia University, WVU Potomac State College, WVU Extension Service Institute for Labor Studies and Research, the West Virginia Carpenters Training Center and the West Virginia State Building and Construction Trades Council allows apprentices to further their skills and education through the new associate degree program. 

This spring, nearly 100 registered apprentices in the Carpenters training program enrolled in the first cohort of the Apprenticeship Pathway Associate Degree Program offered through WVU Potomac State College. The program is available at the West Virginia Carpenters Training Center’s three locations—Parkersburg, Charleston and Bridgeport, West Virginia.

“Our trades workers are literally the very foundation of everything we do. Their skills, craftsmanship and hard work can be seen and felt everywhere,” said Bowe, who worked as a coal miner while completing his bachelor’s degree at B&E, and later received a master’s degree in safety management from the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. “It is so exciting to see this type of degree program offered to our West Virginia apprentices. I hope the program will continue to grow so that other apprentices can benefit from this additional education to make them even more marketable in today’s workforce.”

Joining Bowe in this episode are two apprentices in the training program who had an opportunity to learn from the cast and crew in constructing a new, 16-by-20-foot structure at the Mill. Made of 350-year-old wood, the timber frame was constructed offsite at the company’s “Boneyard” and transported in pieces to the site. A team from Jackson’s Mill coordinated the site prep work, and Bowe and his crew instructed the apprentices – using tools and techniques from pioneer days – on completing the necessary construction, raising the structure and putting on the finishing touches. The building also will serve as a home for Appalachian artisans who want to showcase their work and teach others about their craft. A team from Jackson’s Mill worked with contractors to complete the building.

Jessica Rader, an apprentice in the Carpenters Training program, said her training as a carpenter apprentice helped her feel at ease while working with the Barnwood Builders’ crew. 

“There is something magical about taking the weathered boards of an old barn that stands as a testament of a bygone era and giving those pieces of heritage a brand-new life,” Rader noted. “I was able to apply basic carpentry skills, identify and use the appropriate safety gear and tools for the job, communicate effectively on the job site, and assess the task to quickly determine how I could add value. The apprenticeship program teaches you how to think like a carpenter, which enabled me to anticipate the needs of the Barnwood team in order to help them maintain an efficient workflow. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Doddridge County native Jean Hinter Doak Ruckman, a 4-H All Star and former club leader, donated the structure to the artisan village at WVU Jackson’s Mill. Ruckman’s gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.

Bowe and his crew have reclaimed hundreds of pioneer-era structures across West Virginia, and around the country.

For more information about WVU Extension Service visit or follow @WVUExtension on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 



CONTACT: Tara Curtis; WVU Extension Service