The Home Depot and The Home Depot Foundation, alongside Klein Tools and SkillsUSA, celebrated SkillsUSA's National Signing Day with students from across the Southeast via its Path to Pro program, which provided scholarships to six students entering the skilled trades.

The recipients include:

  • Annayeli Dionisio, Columbus Career & College Academy, Whiteville, N.C.;
  • Jalen Randolph, Butler County Career Academy, Greenville, Alabama;
  • Jesse Moran, RIVEROAK Technical College, Live Oak, Florida;
  • Kayla Eades, Cross Keys High School, Atlanta, Georgia;
  • Michael Snipes, East Laurens High School, East Dublin, Georgia; and
  • Zackery Pitchford, Lumpkin County High School, Dahlonega, Georgia.

Following the event, Supply House Times spoke with The Home Depot about the history, industry need and long-term goals for the partnership.

SHT: Speak to The Home Depot’s history with SkillsUSA? Is this the first time you all have collaborated with the organization?

HD: We first crossed paths in 2019 when we joined the first-ever SkillsUSA National Signing Day as a program sponsor. Together with our valued partner Klein Tools, who plays a major role in this program, we magnified our partnership in 2021 to make a more concentrated effort to support students joining the building and construction trades.

SHT: Why is it important to expose high school students to the skilled trades? In what ways can our industry better reach the next generation?

HD: As sponsors of National Signing Day, The Home Depot and Klein Tools have had the opportunity to forge meaningful relationships with students and schools across the country. It’s important to inform, educate and support students as they evaluate options and make critical career development decisions.

SHT: What initiatives, aside from Signing Day, does The Home Depot have in the works to bridge the labor gap?

HD: Our participation in National Signing Day 2021 is a continuation of our trades training program, which to date, has exposed more than 15,000 to the skilled trades while also certifying more than 5,000 participants in its first few years. As part of our exclusive National Signing Day 2021 Southeast sponsorship, we also introduced a uniquely designed program granting $30,000 in scholarships towards a group of students’ trade school tuition.

Additionally, our relationships with other industry educators including the Home Builders Institute, Construction Education Foundation of Georgia and Atlanta Technical College enable us to continue to advance the skilled trades.

We are confident that by remaining active and focused we can continue training and empowering the next generation of skilled leaders.

SHT: What do you think are the main things that deter the next generation from entering the trades? How can we as an industry work to combat these issues and/or misconceptions?

HD: A main deterrent we see around entering the trades is simply lack of education on the industry. The education focus has shifted away from the trades over the last few decades, and we need to shine light on that fact that this is a great career path.

As a company, we can do our part by creating programs in schools and working with industry leaders and nonprofit partners to educate students on the benefits of the trades. We have to continue building intentional relationships with local communities, schools, parents, youth, etc. and helping them understand the opportunities for entrepreneurship, leadership, and possibilities for success within the trades.

SHT: Equally as important as attracting the next generation is retention. How do we retain a talented workforce?

HD: Retaining a talented workforce begins by educating people there is a future in the industry. As we work to create this next generation of skilled workers, we have to teach them the knowledge of the current workforce, provide quality management and help place them in fulfilling career opportunities post-training.  

SHT: Speak to SkillsUSA’s commitment and work in the industry? How can manufacturers, distributors and other industry stakeholders’ partner with SkillsUSA to continue this mission?

HD: We appreciate the fact that SkillsUSA works with students, parents, and industry leaders to help students excel while creating a skilled workforce. We’d encourage interested organizations to look within your company to determine opportunities to support the skilled trades. Then, apply those insights as you evaluate the ways in which SkillsUSA offers support.