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Lowe’s student program focuses on skilled trades

The retailer gives 65 high school students a new view of career options.

BY HBSDealer Staff

With the industry impacted by a skilled labor shortage, organizations have been looking for methods that bring more students into the fold.

Lowe’s Home Improvement and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in Charlotte, N.C. recently collaborated in an effort focused on creating change in the future of trade skills in America.

The program introduces high school students to the industry through skilled trades immersion while exposing them to various trades and potential paid high-school internships with Lowe’s partner installation companies.

“Society is beginning to realize success isn’t framed by a college degree,” said Mike Mitchell, director of Trade Skills for Lowe’s. “We need to debunk the myth that trade skills are only for students who don’t see college in their future.”

According to Mitchell, trade skills are a high-growth pathway to economic mobility, financial stability and independence. “As a home improvement retailer, Lowe’s is invested in building that pipeline of skilled trade entrepreneurs and crafters.”

Susan Gann, director of Technical Education for CMS, has dedicated her career to creating pathways for students after high school graduation.

“Students have exciting options that build wealth but do not always require a four-year degree,” Gann said. “It’s important for parents and students to do their research on what their employment goals are and then examine the best pathway to achieve that goal.”

Gann and Mitchell, also a member of CMS’s Career & Technical Education (CTE) District Advisory team, created a program that introduced 65 high school students from four CMS schools to trade skills ranging from tiling to flooring, appliance repair, and carpentry.

The program included hands-on demonstrations from local skilled tradespeople including Billy Miller, operations manager for Service Pros Installation Group in Charlotte, N.C.

Miller’s team performed demonstrations on ceramic tile installation and how to nail down hardwood floors. Following the interaction, Miller said the students were engaged and asked solid questions about the industry. “We had several questions regarding the financial benefits of the industry as well as how to get started in the trade.”

Donna Self, who owns Lakeside Heating & Air Conditioning, got her start in HVAC through a part-time job in college. “I realized the potential in a secure and profitable career in the HVAC industry, so I gained knowledge from the part time job and opened my own business,” she said. Connecting with teenagers 34 years later meant paying that message forward for Self.

“I was surprised by how little students know about the variety of jobs in the HVAC trade,” she said. “They were amazed at the salary potential.”

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