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Lowe’s launches workforce training network to address skills gap, economic mobility

Lowe’s employees met with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools students during an immersion event hosted at Camp North End last fall.
Lowe’s employees met with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools students during an immersion event hosted at Camp North End last fall.

Lowe’s is launching a workforce development network that has a two-pronged purpose: To educate young people on jobs in trades like construction, and to help build a pipeline of skilled workers who make up an important part of its customer base.

Generation T, or Gen T, as the Mooresville home improvement retailer is calling it, is a consortium of 60 member organizations, from appliance maker Bosch to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, according to Mike Mitchell, Lowe’s skilled trades director. He led the creation of Gen T.

Through Gen T, Lowe’s wants to debunk popular myths about skilled trades like carpentry, floor installation and plumbing, Mitchell said. All of those jobs are relatively highly paid for positions that don’t require a four-year college degree. It’s not unusual to find experienced carpenters and plumbers with six-figure salaries, Mitchell said.

And yet, Mitchell said, young people avoid the trades a lot of the time because of a lack of awareness. “Lowe’s wanted to have an understanding of what’s keeping people back from this industry.”

Left unaddressed, the so-called “skills gap” could create a shortage of 3 million jobs by 2028, Lowe’s said, citing industry analysts.

Lowe’s said the effort is also a way to address economic mobility in Charlotte. Introducing high school students to the trades provides them with an alternative to college and a pathway to economic opportunity, Lowe’s said in a statement.

Practically speaking, Gen T will coordinate with its partners to donate products like appliances and tools to students studying trades. It will also help build networks so students can find apprenticeships.

In Charlotte, we’ve already made a decent amount of tool donations to local schools like West Mecklenburg,” Mitchell said.

Starting to build a pipeline of skilled workers helps Lowe’s too. Professional customers, such as contractors, are a major priority for Lowe’s since they spend an average of five times as much as the typical do-it-yourself shopper, the company has said.

“When we start talking to (pro customers) about how we can help them run their small business, labor shortage comes up almost every time,” Mitchell said.” It’s precisely the role of Generation T: To help people think differently about this space.”

Lowe’s would not say how much it is investing on the launch of Gen T.

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As the retail and sports business reporter for the Observer, Katie Peralta covers everything from grocery-store competition in Charlotte to tax breaks for pro sports teams. She is a Chicago native and graduate of the University of Notre Dame.
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