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Chicago 1900. Photo: Library of Congress / Corbis / VCG via Getty

In one of the hardest times to hire skilled workers in decades, Lowe's is running a pilot program offering $2,500 to its own employees if they will learn a master trade, such as electrician or plumber.

Why it matters: After four months of 4.1% unemployment, and the possibility it could drop to 3.5% this year, most companies are still resisting forming their own training programs to skill people up. Lowe's is an example of what we may see over the coming year and longer as companies become more desperate to fill skilled vacancies.

The details: Jennifer Weber, chief human resource officer at Lowe's, tells Axios that the pilot will run in four U.S. cities — Charlotte, N.C., Denver, Pittsburgh and Richmond, VA.

  • Lowe's employees will receive up to $2,500 of the cost of a 6-to-10-month pre-apprenticeship to be an electrician, a carpenter, a plumber or an appliance repair person.
  • That would be followed by placement in a two-year apprenticeship.
  • Those who finish could return to a Lowe's store as an expert helping customers, or work in the master trade for one of the chain's contractors.

Weber said employees will not be required to stay with Lowe's or its contractor network, but that the idea is to build up a cadre of skilled people associated with the chain.

  • The pilot is meant to lead to establishing the program across the U.S.
  • Taken to its extreme, if every one of Lowe's' 190,000 hourly employees decides to sign up, the commitment would cost the chain about $475 million, and more if some of its 60,000 salaried employees elect to go into the trades, too.

Going deeper: Dean Garfield, president of the Information Technology Industry Council, tells Axios that there are some 3 million tech-related vacancies in the U.S. at the moment. Companies, he said, are beginning to understand that they cannot simply stand by and wait for colleges and other companies to train their future employees. "There is a growing recognition that they need to take on the responsibility of training that is currently carried mostly by educational institutions," he said.

Go deeper

7 mins ago - Politics & Policy
Scoop

White House plots "full-court press" for $1.9 trillion relief plan

National Economic Council Director Brian Deese speaks during a White House news briefing. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Biden White House is deploying top officials to get a wide ideological spectrum of lawmakers, governors and mayors on board with the president’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief proposal, according to people familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: The broad, choreographed effort shows just how crucially Biden views the stimulus to the nation's recovery and his own political success.

8 mins ago - World

Scoop: Sudan wants to seal Israel normalization deal at White House

Burhan. Photo: Mazen Mahdi/AFP via Getty

Three months after Sudan agreed to normalize relations with Israel, it still hasn't signed an agreement to formally do so. Israeli officials tell me one reason has now emerged: Sudan wants to sign the deal at the White House.

Driving the news: Israel sent Sudan a draft agreement for establishing diplomatic relations several weeks ago, but the Sudanese didn’t reply, the officials say. On Tuesday, Israeli Minister of Intelligence Eli Cohen raised that issue in Khartoum during the first-ever visit of an Israeli minister to Sudan.