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The Right Take on Campus

Home Depot pledges donation to tighten skills gap

Home Depot exterior
A person walks toward a Home Depot in Nashville, Tenn.

Less than two weeks ago, Lowe’s Home Improvement debuted its Track to the Trades program, which provides financial support to employees pursuing a skilled trade. Not to be outdone by the competition, Home Depot announced Thursday that it will donate $50 million to the Home Builders Institute to train new construction workers over the next 10 years. The Home Builders Institute will use the funds to train 20,000 veterans, soldiers, high school students, and disadvantaged youth.

Currently, the Home Builders Institute trains about 3,500 construction workers per year. This program will increase the number of annual graduates by nearly 60 percent, and give thousands of veterans a new avenue for success as they adjust to civilian life.

These workers will enter a job market where the average wage is a generous $29.24 an hour — nearly 10 percent higher than the private-sector average. Construction spending reached more than $1 trillion last November and demand for the trades keeps growing.

“It’s important that we support the trades,” Home Depot CEO Craig Menear said in an interview.

A shortage of construction workers has caused home prices to go “through the roof,” stunting the construction of new homes. Construction firms are actively recruiting skilled workers. According to a survey from the Associated General Contractors of America, about 75 percent of firms said they plan to hire more workers.

Job reports have remained promising under the Trump administration, but the skills gap has prevented many new jobs from being filled. The construction industry reported 158,000 open jobs in December—compared to 140,000 a year before—and a large number remain open.

While some blame the decrease in illegal workers for this trend, the gap first started a decade ago during the housing crash, when residential construction employment dropped by about 1.5 million. The number has crawled back over time, but with baby boomers retiring in droves and millennials pressured into a college track, the number of skilled workers has stagnated. The median age of construction workers is 42 years old.

Home Depot’s charitable program bolsters President Trump’s efforts to jump-start the American industry by returning jobs to struggling American workers. As the job market roars back to life, the home improvement company is positioning young workers for success by tightening the skills gap and alleviating the burden of student debt.