Welcome Closing the Gap guest speaker, Ashley Merback!

Ashley is a woodworker and co-owner of Highland Woodshop, among the numerous other hats she wears in her career. Join us for this episode as Forrest Johnson (Mid-Valley STEM-CTE Hub’s Makerspace Coordinator) and Kacey talk with Ashley about the importance of makerspaces and being able to work with your hands, as well as building a career around two very different types of career fields.

Q: Please describe your educational/training background

I have a bachelors degree in Human Development and no professional training in woodworking. I am a youtube, mentor, and self-taught woodworker!

Q: Please describe where you work & your occupation

I co-own a small business/makerspace called Highland Woodshop in Corvallis, OR. Additionally, I work in the Corvallis School District as a Behavior Support Staff at College Hill. I love both my jobs tremendously. Having multiple part-time jobs in completely different fields works well for me. I love change and like to constantly be switching things up while also digging in deep roots!

Q: Career-wise, what have been your proudest moments/highlights/accomplishments so far?

Every summer we run a summer camp for girls based around nature crafts, play, and building. When the girls begin creating things using only their imaginations, things they find outside, and tools they’ve made with their own hands, I cry. I have a fantasy that the local High School Wood Shop classes burst with girls in the next 5-10 years because of the work we’re doing here at Highland Wood Shop. I also love working with families who come in to take classes together. Seeing parent and child connect through shared wonder and excitement, and building positive memories together is really rewarding for me.

Q: What are some of your future goals or things you would like to accomplish?

I have an ultimate goal to combine a mental health practice using woodworking and other forms of craft to facilitate healing within families and to provide a canvas for teen group therapy. I also have a dream to connect women with basic home maintenance skills so that they can be self-sufficient when basic things go wrong with the things that they own, i.e. their faucets, light fixtures, cars, bikes, washing machines etc.

Q: What have been some of your biggest career challenges?

Time. Finding the time to be 10 people at once. And overcoming inner narratives telling me that I’m no good with machinery or programming.

Q: Many young women might not be aware of the career available in STEM fields. What do you think can be done to spread the word to women about career options in these fields?

I think we need to put more faces and stories of women in STEM at the forefront in our communities. And I think it’s happening. I see this intention lived out in our area.

Q: Do you have any advice for women who are looking to follow in a similar career path?

Look for the opportunities. Stay open-minded and don’t get too set on the details. Pay attention to what opportunities are available to you at every stage of your life and follow those leads.

Q: What do you like to do for fun in your spare time?

Connect with the people I love doing whatever we like to do together. I love food, running, mountain biking, snow skiing, thrifting, and sitting around a campfire.


  • Ashley’s episode will be available on January 24th. Listen here!
  • You can also listen on Spotify!
  • Interested in creating something of your own at Highland Woodshop? You can find out more here!
  • Interested in a career in woodworking or construction? Oregon Tradeswomen may be a good place to get started.
  • Download Ashley’s Closing the Gap poster here!