Lowe’s latest benefit? Tuition for trade skill certification

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Building on enhancements to its benefits package, Lowe’s announced Thursday it will provide a new workforce development benefit to help its workers pursue a skilled trade.

The home improvement retailer will partner with Guild Education — an education network for working adults that also has arrangements with companies including Chipotle Mexican Grill — to provide part-time and full-time employees upfront tuition funding for trade skill certification, academic coaching and support, and placement opportunities for full-time pre-apprenticeships within Lowe’s nationwide contractor network. The program is called Track to the Trades.

The program will roll out in Charlotte, Denver, Pittsburgh and Richmond on March 1. Following the four-city pilot, the company says, it will expand the initiative across the country by the end of the year.

Eligible workers— the company employs more than 290,000 people — will receive up to $2,500 for the certification, which they can use to pre-apprentice in carpentry, HVAC, electrical, plumbing or appliance repair careers. During that six- to 10-month pre-apprenticeship, employees will have access to a field mentor.

See also: Lowe’s expands family benefits, hands out employee bonuses

“The trade profession is a high-demand, high-opportunity field for the next generation workforce, and today, there is a massive unmet need,” says Jennifer Weber, Lowe’s chief human resources officer. “With Track to the Trades, we are providing unique career alternatives for our associates while also building a pipeline for the next generation of skilled trade workers, allowing us to better meet the demands of customers while creating long-term educational benefits and economic opportunity for our people.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ recent forecast found that the nation’s need for workers in the skilled trades is increasing much faster than the growth of employment overall, with a gap of more than half a million jobs across construction-related fields by 2026.

The announcement is one of several for Lowe’s since November. The retailer last fall partnered with healthcare concierge company Accolade to give full-time, benefit-eligible employees comprehensive benefits support. More recently, it announced it is offering employees one-time bonuses and an enhanced parental leave policy due to tax reform savings.

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