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MOORESVILLE – Lowe’s Companies Inc. is leading an effort of more than 60 organizations to fill an expected shortage in skilled-trade workers in the next decade.

Analysts predict that a skilled-trade gap could leave as many as 3 million jobs unfilled by 2018.

Generation T, or Gen T, “aims to shift the societal perception of the trades by demonstrating the economic mobility possible, exposing children to trade education early and encouraging students to explore career options beyond four-year degree programs,” the Mooresville-based company said in announcing the initiative Thursday.

The program also connects prospective skilled trade professionals to apprenticeships and jobs through the WeAreGenerationT.com website.

According to information and analytics company IHS Markit, the construction industry will experience stronger wage growth than the rest of the U.S. economy, but a recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders found that 69 percent of its members were not completing projects on time because of a shortage of qualified workers, while other jobs were lost altogether. Experts say a growing number of retiring workers and unfavorable perception of the industry by those entering the workforce have led to the dearth of candidates to fill construction jobs.

Lowe’s said its own research has found that high school students believe pursuing a career in the trades would make them seem boring, while adults feel it would make them seem talentless.

“We believe the professional trades are an essential part of America’s future,” said Lowe’s Executive Vice President of Human Resources Jennifer L. Weber. “We’re committed to opening that path to those who relish the challenge of creating something out of raw materials, and take pride and satisfaction in mastering the skills required to do it.”

Weber said more than 1,350 Lowe’s employees have joined the company’s Track to the Trades initiative since it was introduced more than a year ago. The program provides career alternatives and financial support for employees interested in pursuing jobs in carpentry, heating and air conditioning, electrical trades, plumbing and appliance repair.

“We’ve seen the success that can result from empowering people with a skilled trade,” Weber said. “If we don’t fill the existing skilled trade gap, our businesses, homes and communities will suffer.”

Generation T partners include:

• Timberland PRO, which makes safety footwear and work apparel, launched a campaign to help change the perception of trades. “Always Do. Never Done” features “men and women in a heroic way working in epic outdoor settings.”

• The Bosch Community Fund provides scholarships for students who demonstrate interest in the trades and attend one of six northwest Chicago suburban high schools. The program, a partnership with the District 214 Education Foundation, pays for students to complete community college career certificate programs.


Skilled-trade snapshot

Here is a summary provided by Lowe’s of salaries and future demand for a handful of skilled trades:

Appliance tech (Installs diagnoses and repairs large appliances)

• Average annual salary: $50,200

• Available jobs over the next decade: 43,100

Carpenter

• Average annual salary: $42,700

• Available jobs over the next decade: more than 1 million

Electrician

• Average annual salary: $57,350

• Available jobs over the next decade: 17,207

Floor installers

• Average annual salary: $41,000

• Available jobs over the next decade: 622,117

HVAC tech

• Average annual salary: $57,600

• Available jobs over the next decade: 409,309

Painters

• Average annual salary: $39,150

• Available jobs over the next decade: 366,735

Plumbers

• Average annual salary: $59,050

• Available jobs over the next decade: 648,074

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