The Home Builder Institute was recently the recipient of a $50 million grant, given by the Home Depot Foundation (HDF) to train 20,000 new skilled workers over the next 10 years. The Institute’s president, John Courson, says the home improvement giant’s generosity could further galvanize the “rebirth” of vocational training in secondary schools.
Already, the Home Builder Institute produces about 5,000 skilled workers every year, Courson says. The Institute focuses on training many trades—carpentry, masonry, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, painting—to underserved and adjudicated youth, ex-offenders and veterans re-entering civilian life. But that’s not all the curriculum touches.
“We also license out our programs to high schools,” Courson says. It’s an approach that allows HBI to expand its training without having to build additional training centers. “About 3,000 students a year currently benefit from it.”
Home Depot’s grant will help HBI grow those numbers.
Not Now, But Soon
In the first year of its agreement, HBI will focus on veterans re-entering civilian life-—which has long been a principal focus of the Institute. It will use the funding to install training programs at military bases, something it’s already done at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Fort Stuart in Georgia. But the following year, HBI will begin expanding its grant-spending priorities to include community programs in underserved areas and high schools, Courson explains.
“There is a rebirth in vocational training in secondary schools,” he says. “Those types of programs have been squeezed out over the years, and a big reason for that is school budgets. But now there is a bit more money out there and teachers want these programs for kids who don’t intend to go to college.”
And Courson’s right. Interest is growing in vocational education. In Massachusetts, for instance, the wait list for students to get into public vocational schools is upwards of 3,500 students, according to a survey from the Northeastern University School of Law. Responding to the trend in New Jersey, where 18,000 students had to be denied entry into vocational-technical high schools in 2017, the state recently approved $500 million to expand technical education programs. And those sorts of stories are playing out all over the country. “There’s plenty of demand,” Courson says.
The money from HDF will allow HBI to be more aggressive in pushing out its program to school districts. Already, HBI has 40 high schools in the queue considering adopting its program, Courson says.
Home Depot is helping the Institute accommodate the high demand for its curriculum. However, the chain has also committed to more than that.
“Home Depot, through its massive chain of stores, will be a great resource for participating high schools,” Courson says. “They can help mentor kids, talk to them about the classes and have students come to the stores to learn more about what the industry is like.”
Courson hopes more in the industry will follow Home Depot’s lead.