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    Categories: Serving Communities

With industry help, we’re getting real about education

This article is written by SkillsUSA Executive Director Tim Lawrence.

This is the first in a series of guest blogs from Lowe’s national nonprofit partners’ executive leaders.

There’s a hole in the American economy; one we are working to fill. It’s the skills gap — the gap between the jobs available in the skilled trades and the skilled workers ready to fill them.

When I was in high school in the 1970s in Rock, West Virginia, I had no idea that joining a student organization and attending a welding contest would open so many doors. But I looked around on competition day and was smart enough to know that the business partners wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t worth their time. I didn’t win, but it ignited a passion in me for learning that continues today. I love to see that spark in other students, too.

It’s what drives current and former students like Boyd Worsham, who took three years of carpentry as a student in Florida. Worsham is now the vice president of construction for Haskell Co., which is responsible for building much of the skyline in Jacksonville, Florida. “SkillsUSA students graduate with the hard skills to get a job completed and the soft skills to build teams and communicate,” Worsham said. “I’ve stayed involved with SkillsUSA because my own experiences accelerated my career.”

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Over the next decade, 3.4 million new manufacturing jobs will become available, most as a result of retirement. Of those jobs, 2 million may go unfilled because of a lack of qualified workers…We believe SkillsUSA is a vital solution to closing the skills gap.

There are hundreds of thousands of students like Worsham who gained something from the red jacket and want to give back. But without industry support, SkillsUSA can’t do its job of preparing students. Lowe’s has stepped up as one of our finest partners, providing millions of dollars that strengthen local and state programs. Public schools often struggle to fund new equipment or campus enhancements. There are so many demands on their budgets. Communities face the same challenge. Lowe’s grants allow our students to apply their skills in real-world scenarios while giving back.

This year, SkillsUSA students in Alabama will build a pole barn pavilion at their school to use for community events. Students in Ohio will team up with Lowe’s to carry out a community improvement blitz by building wheelchair-accessible ramps, restoring park buildings and baseball fields, and cleaning police and fire stations. Each project will make a difference not only for local communities but also for those students who participate and learn the value of service to others.

Lowe’s also supported this year’s SkillsUSA Championships, the nation’s largest workforce development program. Lowe’s Heroes employee volunteers from eight stores in Louisville, Kentucky, site of the championships, partnered with our students to build 200 park benches that were donated to local nonprofit organizations. More than 16,000 students, teachers and education leaders attended the national event, which is a great place to get excited about the future of America.

Over the next decade, 3.4 million new manufacturing jobs will become available, most as a result of retirement. Of those jobs, 2 million may go unfilled because of a lack of qualified workers. And it’s not just the manufacturing industry that’s suffering. Construction, engineering, maintenance, repair and customer-service sectors are all facing worker shortages and feeling the effects of the skills gap.

We believe SkillsUSA is a vital solution to closing the skills gap. With more than 350,000 members in 4,000 schools, SkillsUSA represents 130 skilled occupations. As a talent pipeline, we are graduating more than 100,000 career-ready students each year.

Lowe’s has had a profound impact on SkillsUSA’s growth in the past decade at every level. We are serving more students, expanding our reach and launching new programs.

Our students in their red SkillsUSA blazers will remember the Lowe’s Heroes who worked with them on their school projects. Many members will continue these relationships long after their school experience has ended, and many others will become Lowe’s employees.

Red jackets and red vests look good side by side. To learn more about how you or your student can get involved in SkillsUSA, click here.