The Home Depot, the US’s largest home improvement retailer, announced last Thursday that it would donate $50 million to a decade-long project to train 20,000 Americans, including veterans, returning military service members, high school students, and disadvantaged youth, as construction workers, USA Today reported. The donation is part of the company’s corporate social responsibility efforts, but there’s also something in it for Home Depot:
Sales at the nation’s largest home-improvement retailer are dampened if contractors and partners can’t find enough workers to undertake projects. Sales to plumbers and other tradespeople comprise 40% of the company’s revenue, [Home Depot CEO Craig] Menear says. The initiative, he says, also builds on the company’s donation of $250 million through 2020 to provide housing to veterans. Soldiers and veterans will make up about 15,000 of the 20,000 construction workers turned out by the training program.
They could make a noticeable dent in a big problem. There were 158,000 job openings in construction in December, up from 140,000 a year earlier. Eighty-four percent of contractors surveyed by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Wells Fargo in December cited availability of workers and cost as their most significant problems last year, along with rising materials prices.
The announcement comes at a time when many large US employers are taking high-profile steps toward developing the workforce of the future. Lowe’s, the main competitor to Home Depot, recently announced a partnership with Guild Education to help its employees complete training and apprenticeship programs for skilled trades such as carpentry, plumbing, and appliance repair—fields in which the labor market is expected to face a gap of 500,000 workers by 2026.
Tech companies are also making big investments in training and workforce development with a dual focus on growing and diversifying the talent pipeline for their industries while making good jobs more accessible to underserved communities. Google, for example, recently launched its internal IT training curriculum to the public in partnership with Coursera, for which it is granting scholarships through community groups such as Year Up, Goodwill, Student Veterans of America, and Upwardly Global. The goal is for students to be ready for entry-level IT support jobs within eight to 12 months.
Intel, which has previously run training programs for disadvantaged young people in the US and India, also recently announced a $1 million program to train refugees in Germany for jobs in the tech sector. Facebook and Apple are also expanding their digital training initiatives in Europe to bring digital skills to groups with limited access to technology.