Introducing The Next Generation Of Tradespeople

A joint partnership between Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Lowe's gives students a life changing immersion into the skilled trades and an experience they'll never forget.

Gen T

Exposing Charlotte Mecklenburg Students to the Skilled Trades Industries

Education paves every path to prosperity. Unfortunately, few people understand that a career in the skilled trades requires education– and that it is usually learned on-the-job. Historically, this was an informal process. Traditionally, someone might shadow their dad or uncle during the summer to pick up a few bucks. Maybe a friend of a friend would offer a job hauling lumber onto a site while the skilled workers lay flooring.

In October 2018, we began the work to change that. At that time, Lowe’s and its installation partners* immersed 70 Charlotte Mecklenburg high school seniors in flooring, tiling, framing, and appliance repair. In the spirit of immersion, we implemented learning that would be kinesthetic, auditory and visual. The intent was pure: to highlight the paths to the 3 million career opportunities in the skilled trades industry today.

“I didn’t know, but I’m definitely considering this (opportunities in the skilled trades),” one 17-year-old senior reported after participating in the program. For Lowe’s, and the other program partners*, no words could be sweeter. 


What We Told Them

While we cannot predict the future, there are specific known facts for each generation. If we calculate the growing U.S. population, the number of workers retiring, and the number of people moving to cities (50 cities to exceed 1 million by 2028, compared to 10 in 2018) we end up with an enormous figure. Considering the aging U.S. infrastructure in dire need of repair (estimated at $4 trillion) stacked against the declining numbers of students pursuing skilled trades careers after high school (a mere 5%), you can make a compelling case for the potential of secure, lucrative jobs in the skilled trades. Demand for carpenters, appliance repair technicians, electricians, plumbers, masons, bricklayers, welders, and flooring installers is just going to go up, which offers an excellent opportunity for the taking. 

Perhaps it should not come as any surprise then, that according to the U.S. Census Board, about 9 percent of American millionaires in 2018 are skilled tradespeople.

What We Showed Them

“Laying tile is like a puzzle,” said one student. Ten CMS students looked on, observing as the tile guys spread mastic on backer board. Sun slanted through the 10-foot windows, casting a shadow between the students and instructors. A nail gun punctuated the chatter in the room at each station featuring an instructor with 8 to 10 students observing and working with vol meters, trowels, and nail guns. Outside at the framing station, Hunter MacFarland, of Lowe’s Home Improvement had female students using a nail gun to secure 12-foot 2x4s. By the end, Hunter and his team had constructed a respectable wall.

Make no mistake: these students were not checked-out or going through the motions. They were bright-eyed and engaged in the activity. This is a critical insight because, according to 2018 Lowe’s research, 62% of the parents of high schoolers find value in having their child exposed to different career options.

So, what does this all mean? Shop class needs to make a comeback, and students must begin taking tours of construction facilities nationwide. We need to get back to the basics.

You see, this is not a standalone issue. While potentially millions of high-growth opportunities are available to young Americans, the current labor shortage also affects another socio-economic issue: affordable housing. According to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, a lack of people willing to work on homes will potentially add a 5 to 10% to the cost of new homes.

Watch the Video:


What Comes Next

Lowe’s is working with its installation partner companies* and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools to help provide paid on-the-job high school internships. This means that for several hours each week, students will travel job sites (courtesy of public transportation vouchers provided by the Charlotte Mecklenburg School Foundation) to learn what it takes to be a technician, an installer, a plumber, a carpenter or an electrician.

How You Can Play a Role

Share this post with your friends on LinkedIn. There are 3 million job opportunities coming into this arena over the next decade. What if you could change your life or the life of someone you love just by pointing them toward Generation T?

We have already influenced 65 lives, and this is just the beginning. 

Take the Assesment


*CMS, Associated General Contractors of the Carolinas, Service Pro Flooring, Skills USA, Advanced Appliance, and Lakeside Heating and Air and HVAC

5 months ago, in The Movement by Jason Burns
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