The Home Depot Foundation will be committing $50 million over the next 10 years to training more than 20,000 tradespeople.
According to statistics from the Bureau of Labor, 158,000 construction-sector jobs are currently unfilled. As explained by Heather Prill, senior manager of national partnerships for The Home Depot Foundation, this number will increase significantly in the coming years as the current average age of those in the trade is about 56 years old.
The focus of the program will be on training veterans—a population The Home Depot Foundation has been committed to since 2011—in the skills of plumbing, carpentry, electrical engineering, and HVACs.
“In 2011, we started focusing on housing for veterans,” Prill said. “We focused on ending veteran homelessness, completing critical home repairs for veterans of all ages, and then also building homes for veterans who have been severely combat-wounded. But one of the things we realized was that in order to be safely housed, you really have to have your health, obviously a roof over your head, and employment is a big thing. On the company and foundation sides, we started to take a look at the trades and what a decline there is in people going into the trades. For us, it makes a lot of sense to say, ‘OK, we can work on this employment issue,’ but also the social issue of [fewer] people going into the trades.”
Currently, the foundation is finalizing its first pilot program in partnership with the non-profit Home Builders Institute on the military grounds of Fort Stewart and Fort Bragg. Provided at no cost to students, the first set of graduates will complete the 12-week pre-apprenticeship certificate program this month.
The program’s job placement rate is already above 90 percent and will roll out in bases across the country this year.
In addition, The Home Depot Foundation is establishing an advanced-level training program in partnership with the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia. The long-term plan is to provide training support to include underserved high schools cross the United States as well as the veteran community.
For the design and building communities, this will close the labor gap, which is at the highest level of construction job openings to hirings since 2007, according to the Department of Labor. It can be expected that by filling open positions and helping jobs become available as the current tradespeople retire, the construction and infrastructure industries will become stronger within the next 10 years.
“If we don’t do this, the building crisis will only become worse,” Prill concluded.
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