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Home Depot to donate $50M to train construction workers, address severe shortage


Home Depot announced Thursday that it will donate $50 million to train 20,000 people as construction workers over the next decade, helping efforts to ease a dire shortage that’s curtailing home building and driving up house prices.

The Home Builders Institute, the industry’s education arm, will use the money from the Home Depot Foundation to train veterans and U.S. Army soldiers who will soon be returning to civilian life, high school students and disadvantaged youth.

“It’s important that we support the trades,” Home Depot CEO Craig Menear said in an interview. “Not only do we sell product to professionals like plumbers and electricians,” but the company also partners with service providers that install kitchen flooring, hot water heaters and other equipment in consumers’ homes.


Sales at the nation’s largest home-improvement retailer are dampened if contractors and partners can’t find enough workers to undertake projects. Sales to plumbers and other tradespeople comprise 40% of the company’s revenue, Menear says.

The initiative, he says, also builds on the company’s donation of $250 million through 2020 to provide housing to veterans. Soldiers and veterans will make up about 15,000 of the 20,000 construction workers turned out by the training program.

They could make a noticeable dent in a big problem. There were 158,000 job openings in construction in December, up from 140,000 a year earlier. Eighty-four percent of contractors surveyed by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Wells Fargo in December cited availability of workers and cost as their most significant problems last year, along with rising materials prices.


Residential construction employment fell by 1.5 million during the housing crash, and payrolls have risen by just 786,000 since the recovery began in 2011. Many workers left the industry for oil, factory and trucking jobs during the meltdown. Meanwhile, Baby Boomers are retiring from the field in droves and there aren’t nearly enough replacements coming out of high schools, which have placed less emphasis on vocational education in recent years.

The worker shortage is taking a toll. About 900,000 single-family houses are expected to be built this year, but there’s demand for nearly 1.3 million, says Robert Dietz, chief economist of NAHB.

The labor crunch leads the obstacles to closing that gap, including rising materials prices, the limited availability of land and onerous regulations. As a result of low housing supplies, existing-home sales fell for the second straight month in January and the median sales price was up 5.8% annually to $240,500.

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PA Workforce Development Association