The Home Depot announced Thursday that its charitable arm, The Home Depot Foundation (HDF), will donate $50 million during the next 10 years to prepare 20,000 new workers for careers in the construction industry, according to a company press release. Students will be instructed in carpentry, framing, electrical, plumbing and other trades.
The money will be given to the nonprofit Home Builders Institute (HBI) to train military veterans, active U.S. Army soldiers who will soon be leaving the service, high school students and disadvantaged young people in the Atlanta area. The HDF has paid for previous training programs, which have a placement rate of 90%, at Fort Stewart in Georgia and Fort Bragg in North Carolina, but will now expand those to other military installations, according to CNBC. An estimated 15,000 of the 20,000 new trainees coming out of the new Home Depot/HBI initiative will come from a military background.
HBI officials said it already receives funding from the U.S. Department of Labor and state and local agencies but that the grant request process is a cumbersome and time-consuming one. The HDF gift will allow the HBI to graduate 2,000 more students a year, increasing the program’s certificate holders by 60% annually.
Material supplier Lowe’s is also sponsoring a program to increase trade skills, but that initiative is targeting company employees. The program will provide full- and part-time employees with $2,500 upfront tuition funding for trade skill certification and associated support services in preparation for pre-apprenticeship opportunities with contractors in the Lowe’s network. The company has rolled out its “Track to the Trades” initiative in Charlotte, Denver, Pittsburgh and Richmond, Virginia, but expects to go nationwide by the end of the year.
The Home Depot and Lowe’s programs are part of an industry push to replace retiring baby boom construction workers and the general lack of willingness on the part of millennials to explore a career in the trades. In fact, a survey published by the National Association of Home Builders last April found that out of the 74% of adults ages 18 to 25 who knew what career they wanted to pursue, only 3% had chosen construction, primarily for its pay potential (80%) and the ability to learn valuable skills (74%).
So, turning to those with experience in the military makes sense, Steamfitters Local 638 President Patrick Dolan told Construction Dive back in 2016, because it is a natural fit. The construction industry, he said, offers veterans a place in the civilian world with the same values of discipline, teamwork and camaraderie they experienced as members of the military. And, according to Darrell Roberts, executive director of Helmets to Hardhats, ex-military members have been trained as problem solvers and are able to adapt to changing conditions, both of which are skills needed for a successful career in construction.