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.”
The major home improvement and appliance retail chain Lowe’s announced in a press release last Thursday that it was introducing a paid parental leave benefit for full-time employees, both salaried and hourly, as well as expanding eligibility for its health insurance plan:
In addition to the company’s comprehensive benefits program, eligible full-time hourly and salaried U.S. employees will qualify to receive:
- Ten weeks of paid maternity leave and two weeks of paid parental leave.
- An adoption assistance benefit to cover up to $5,000 of expenses related to agency, legal and other fees.
- Eligibility to enroll in health benefits sooner, as early as the first of the month following 30 days of service.
Lowe’s also announced one-time cash bonuses of up to $1,000 for its more than 260,000 hourly employees, as some other large US employers have done in response to the substantial cut in the corporate tax rate passed by Congress in December.
The chain’s new leave policy, which goes into effect May 1, means that the 20 largest private employers in the US now offer some form of paid parental leave benefit, the New York Times‘ Claire Cain Miller observes:
The home improvement chain Lowe’s announced last week that it will roll out a autonomous retail service robot called “LoweBot” at 11 stores in the San Francisco Bay Area this fall:
LoweBot will add a layer of support to amplify the trusted advice of Lowe’s employees as it helps customers with simple questions, enabling more time for employees to focus on delivering project expertise and personalized service. Having the ability to scan inventory and capture real-time data with LoweBot will also help detect patterns or gaps that will ultimately influence business decisions.
BI Intelligence depicts this move as part of a trend of retailers embracing robots and automation as a way to remain competitive in the e-commerce era:
Home improvement retailers have been able to combat the “Amazon Effect” because their customers still need to physically browse products — like paint colors or appliances — in-store before making a purchase. The LoweBot will help push Lowe’s into the digital space, while retaining its in-store value to customers.
Overall, robotics are beginning to make significant waves in the retail industry. With wages rising, retailers are trying to boost margins by replacing workers with robots. In addition, the novelty factor could potentially drive more foot traffic, particularly if the robots provide impressive customer service. There aren’t many robots in brick-and-mortars yet, though, as the technology is being adopted more to drive up efficiency in shipping and logistics.