Path to Pro boot camp: A pathway into the skilled trades

The Home Depot's construction boot camp plans to roll out to more cities in 2021

If you live in the metro Atlanta area and are interested in working in the construction trades, there is a recently launched five-day, remote boot camp to help you explore that career option. If the pilot program is a success, it will be rolled out to more cities across the country.

“We’re working as an organization to create programs that allow you to learn about the trades which is what this boot camp is designed for,” says Shannon Gerber, executive director of The Home Depot Foundation.

“It’s a way, entry-level, to get your feet wet and really understand what the trades entail,” continues Gerber. “The [remote] course teaches fundamentals on job site safety, tool usage, material handling, communication, and professional skills.”

Shannon Gerber, executive director, The Home Depot Foundation (Photo: The Home Depot Foundation)

Interestingly, Gerber notes, “Pros told us their biggest need is entry-level labor with soft skills. They can train on the technical parts.” Pros are The Home Depot’s professional customers—meaning contractors and others in the professional construction space.

“They earn a Home Depot certificate that recognizes the construction skills and fundamentals that they’ve learned. It is a way for them to gauge their interest and learn about the trades, and then potentially go from there to applying for positions.”

Gerber says there are different options for the students once they successfully complete the boot camp. “Oftentimes, this is enough for them to be able to take a job, very entry-level, with a professional contractor in construction. It could certainly generate enough interest for someone to go to a technical school and further their education. It really depends on what path they want to go down.”

The boot camp is just one initiative that falls under The Home Depot’s broader Path to Pro program, all of which focus on the skilled trades industry.

(Photo: The Home Depot Foundation)

“There are currently over 300,000 open jobs in the skilled trades. Oftentimes, people don’t know how to get started. They don’t know how to get their foot in the door and how to start learning,” says Gerber. “We know there are less than 3% of high schoolers that are even interested in a career in the trades right now. This is all about meeting everybody where they are in their journey of learning.”

Gerber notes, as workers in the skilled trades retire, there is a need to fill those positions. “We have a massive gap and we don’t have the level of expertise. We’re really trying to make sure that we are training people at all levels to be able to fill that gap, not only in the short term, but in the long-term.”

Endless Opportunities in the Skilled Trades

Gerber says the high demand for workers in the skilled trades is not going away. “There are endless opportunities as it relates to the need out there. Think about all the automation that is being created, the AI side of the innovative part of the world. You will not have a robot come fix your toilet, right? You will not have a robot doing all your electrical wiring for your home. So the need is still there.”

Those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic may find the boot camp is a good resource as they look for employment options, says Gerber. “People are looking at this as an opportunity to learn something new, to try a new career in a different industry. No better time to try to do that. And in a time where the supply and demand are right.”

“We are seeing this timing is favorable for introducing people to the trades and trying to help them understand what they are, what it entails, and that you can have a lucrative and good career in the trades.”

(Photo: The Home Depot Foundation)

The first Atlanta boot camp cohort finished their training in early November. Two more sessions are scheduled in January. The application deadline is January 3.

Gerber says more sessions will be offered in the coming months, and that she expects the boot camp to expand to other locales within the first half of 2021. “As we continue to learn and design these in the best way for the students, we will expand across the country.”

“The Path to Pro boot camp in Atlanta is a pilot, and we’ll continue to refine that and make changes, and adjust in this environment. Then we’ll roll that out broader than Atlanta. For sure.”