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Since my dwarves aren't reproducing, I need to retrain some of them. How do I convince, for example, a miner to lay down his pick and pick up an ax?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

Simply change the dwarf's labor preferences. Select the dwarf (either on the map with v, or through the unit screen), press p to select their preferences. Press enter on a highlighted labor to turn it on or off.

In your example you would turn off mining, and turn on woodcutting (which is under the woodworking section).

Currently the only way dwarves get better at anything beside combat is to do do it. So the only way to train surgery is to do surgery.

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Note that because he's not trained, your new woodcutter will not be as skilled as one who has been chopping since you first struck the earth. For many things, skill == speed, but it also affects things like quality of crafts. –  sjohnston Aug 10 '10 at 15:14
    
You have just saved my dwarves from death by laziness! They were almost out of food and now they are gathering food :D –  Mechko Aug 10 '10 at 15:20
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@Mechko: Because you can do this it's helpful to give some dwarves no proficiencies on embarking, then change the labor preferences after embarking, especially for easy-to-get skills like mining and woodcutting. That way you save a lot of points for other useful items, like iron anvils, dogs, etc. But for slow-development skills (like appraisal and social), skills dealing with rare resources (like gem-cutting/setting), and survival-crucial skills (like surgery and medical training) it's worth starting dwarves off with proficiency. –  Sadly Not Aug 10 '10 at 16:01
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@Mechko CONSCRIPTION. All dwarves must serve for the good of the fortress. –  tzenes Aug 10 '10 at 18:27
    
Important to note is that Mining, Woodcutting and Hunting are mutually exclusive professions - if you assign one, it deactivates the others due to dorfs only being allowed one weapon at a time. –  Shadur Mar 3 '12 at 7:34
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