Lowe’s last week launched its Track to the Trades program, a workforce development initiative designed to provide support for employees who want to pursue job training for skilled trades. Lowe's has partnered with adult education program Guild Education on the Track to the Trades program. The initiative comes at a time when the skilled trade industry is experiencing a rapidly declining workforce, Lowe's said in a statement. Under the program, Lowe’s is offering employees up-front tuition funding for trade skill certification; academic coaching and support; and placement opportunities for full-time pre-apprenticeships in Lowe’s nationwide contractor network or continued growth with Lowe’s. Beginning March 1, Lowe’s will debut Track to the Trades in four cities: Charlotte, Denver, Pittsburgh and Richmond, Va.. Following the pilot, the program will be expanded to qualified Lowe’s part-time and full-time employee nationwide by the end of 2018. Eligible employees will receive up to $2,500 to gain a certification and serve as a pre-apprentice in carpentry, HVAC, electrical, plumbing or appliance repair careers. Pre-apprenticeships take approximately six months to 10 months, and participants will also receive enrollment guidance and a field mentor.
Total Retail's Take: Lowe's Track to the Trades program is doing something other retailers haven't done yet: tackle a growing skills gap in its job pool as the tightening U.S. labor market makes finding experienced workers more difficult. According to a recent forecast from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the nation’s need for workers in the skilled trades is increasing much faster than the growth of employment overall. In fact, Lowe’s said its analysis of BLS data projects that it will experience a skilled trades gap of more than a half million jobs across construction-related fields by 2026. Lowe’s Track to the Trades program is a first step toward rebuilding the skilled trades workforce and infusing pride back into trade professions that are vital to society.