Home improvement retailer Lowe’s has announced a partnership with Guild Education to offer up-front tuition payments for employees to enroll in training programs for skilled trades such as carpentry, plumbing, and appliance repair, Amanda Eisenberg reports at Employee Benefit News. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of demand for these types of services is growing faster than the supply of talent, with a gap of around 500,000 skilled tradespeople projected by 2026, Eisenberg notes.
The program, which will launch with a four-city pilot in March, will offer employees up to $2,500 to enroll in pre-apprenticeships for those crafts. During that period, ranging from six to ten months, they will have access to a field mentor; afterward, they will have the opportunity to be placed in full-time paid apprenticeships within Lowes’ nationwide contractor network. The company’s Chief HR Officer Jennifer Weber told Eisenberg more about the program, which is called Track to the Trades:
“The trade profession is a high-demand, high-opportunity field for the next generation workforce, and today, there is a massive unmet need,” She said. … “With Track to the Trades, we are providing unique career alternatives for our associates while also building a pipeline for the next generation of skilled trade workers.”
In the past year, Lowe’s has also made improvements to its healthcare benefits and expanded parental leave. The North Carolina-based giant, with over 290,000 employees, joins a growing list of companies offering similar vocational training to hourly workers. Last year Ben & Jerry’s and McDonalds made significant upgrades to their education benefits, as did Chipotle the year before. This practice is also not fundamentally different from what tech giants like Google, Intel, Amazon, Apple and Facebook are doing in the digital training space for employees and non-employees.
It’s easy to see why any company might want to consider improving educational benefits. They allow employees to envision a solid career path and gain accreditation that is transferable but also helps them rise within the company. With the increasing need for businesses to take more responsibility in closing talent gaps, these major employers are leading the charge.