Home Depot recently launched the Path to Pro Network, a jobseeker forum that aims to connect skilled workers and employers. Through the platform, workers can post their credentials and examples of prior work to generate interest from potential customers and businesses.
The Path to Pro Skills Program also offers a free training program for those interested in pursuing and growing a career in the skilled trades and prepares them for their first job. A smart move to create career pathing that also leads to building future customers. Providing people with resources to launch a career in the trades can also build customer brand loyalty for life, and the strategy is genius.
Given the profound labor shortage that we face today, especially among skilled tradespeople, this provides an opportunity to help address those gaps and invest in the professional development of thousands of American workers.
Let’s take a closer look at the root causes that have contributed to the labor shortage that we face today and how Home Depot is uniquely positioned to help support the next generation of skilled tradespeople.
The Growing Skilled Labor Shortage in the U.S.
Nationwide, there is an ever-growing lack of skilled trade workers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, companies laid off nearly 8 million people who worked in construction and similar trades.
While those jobs are coming back, unfortunately many workers don’t have the necessary training. In past decades, workers relied on employer training and apprenticeships to learn the essential skills for their roles. However, many apprenticeship programs were eliminated in the 1980s and 1990s as companies sought to cut costs.
A study by the Associated General Contractors of America found that 52% of firms have found it difficult to fill some or all of their hourly positions, including positions for laborers, carpenters and equipment operators. An additional 28% found it challenging to find leaders for salaried roles, such as project managers.
Causes of the Skilled Labor Shortage
The skilled labor shortage isn’t driven entirely by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a problem that has been years in the making. The numerous closures and restrictions during the initial months of the crisis only highlighted the deficiencies and lack of available skilled workers.
The current labor shortage can be attributed to many causes, including:
Lack of Apprenticeship Programs
Apprenticeship programs once formed the backbone of skilled labor training. Workers who enrolled in these programs gained several years of hands-on experience under the qualified eyes of experienced workers before receiving a full-time job upon completion.
Most of those valuable apprenticeship programs no longer exist today. Seeking to minimize costs, many companies abandoned them. Workers who want to enter the skilled trades must pay for their own education before finding jobs that may require additional training.
The Great Recession and the Exodus From Construction
Many remember the Great Recession of 2008, when housing prices crashed and millions found themselves underwater on their mortgages. At the height of the recession, construction companies laid off workers as new home builds plummeted. The construction industry lost more than 2.3 million jobs.
Laid-off workers faced long-term unemployment and many changed industries and found new careers. Those employees who left took their knowledge with them, which further deepened the gap in skilled workers who could mentor the next generation.
Baby Boomer Retirements
Baby boomers form a large part of the construction workforce. They’ve spent decades perfecting their craft, but more are retiring every day. According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 5,900 baby boomers retire daily, or 2.2 million annually.
As baby boomers in the construction industry retire, they’re taking their knowledge with them and there aren’t enough skilled workers to take their place.
Fewer Training Opportunities in High School
Shop class was once a mainstay of the high school curriculum. Teenagers learned the basic skills of specific trades, including construction and plumbing. However, after the No Child Left Behind Act was passed in 2002, schools revamped their curricula to include more room for math and science courses.
As a result, high schools reduced the availability of shop classes and fewer teenagers gained exposure to hands-on work.
Societal Pressure to Attend College
There has been a shift in cultural attitudes over the past few decades with many now leaning towards college as the only path to success.
With high school graduates increasingly choosing college over trade schools, there has been a significant drop in the availability of young people capable of working in the skilled trades.
How Home Depot Seeks to Alleviate the Gap in Available Skilled Trades Workers
Skilled trades workers have long found it challenging to find new jobs in their fields. Those who have been in the skilled trades industry may receive calls from organizations that are aware of their talent and need help.
But, they often have to proactively call local businesses and contractors to find out if there is an open role that they can fill. Others learn of available work via word of mouth or social media.
While white-collar workers can quickly find available jobs through indexing sites like Indeed or through recruitment marketing, workers in skilled trades aren’t so lucky.
Home Depot seeks to remedy that through its Path to Pro Network.
Path to Pro is a jobseeker platform designed exclusively for workers in all types of skilled trades, including home improvement and construction. Workers can create their own profiles, which they can use to apply for jobs.
The profile should include the worker’s prior experience and any training or courses they’ve taken. There is also a place for workers to upload pictures of their previous work.
Path to Pro also allows workers to use specific verification badges. These badges are available for workers who possess specific accreditations or are U.S. military veterans.
Customers who need help with personal projects can search the database to find appropriate labor for their jobs. Companies can use the platform for recruitment marketing by posting listings for available jobs or directly contacting workers who have the right skills for open positions.
Home Depot hopes to close the skills gap for tradespeople and generate more interest among those who have the aptitude for labor positions.
The company also offers a Path to Pro Skills Program, which is free to individuals seeking to develop a career in the skilled trades. The introductory course teaches students about various tools, construction materials and job site safety.
The Skilled Trades Industry Needs a Boost and Home Depot Is There to Help
While there are more jobs available than skilled job seekers in the construction industry, Home Depot seeks to revive interest in the sector through its jobseeker platform and basic skills program.
Tradespeople form the backbone of U.S. society. Without these workers, Americans could not build new homes, complete home improvement projects, maintain bridges and ensure that the country’s infrastructure remains sound.
Home Depot’s introduction of the Path to Pro Network hopes to provide an employer branding and recruitment marketing forum for companies and workers to connect and enhance interest in these essential jobs.