Lowe’s Foundation Awards PBSC Grant To Expand Skilled Trade Programs

Students gain hands-on experience in the HVAC lab at Palm Beach State College.

Palm Beach State College is one of 10 community and technical colleges nationwide to receive the first-ever round of Lowe’s Foundation Gable Grants to support skilled trades workforce development initiatives. The grants are the first in a five-year, $50 million commitment to help prepare 50,000 people for skilled trades careers. This investment will fund cutting-edge programs in appliance repair, carpentry, construction, electrical, HVAC and plumbing.

PBSC received the grant based on its comprehensive plan to expand the impact of its degree and certificate programs in construction trades and management. Putting the grant’s mission into action, PBSC will reach out to residents throughout Palm Beach County to recruit, train and develop the next generation of skilled tradespeople, including groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the trades. PBSC aims to grow its number of graduates who are ready to build and revitalize homes, neighborhoods and infrastructure with the goal to increase Palm Beach County’s skilled workforce by 1,500 by 2028.

“Our partnership with the Lowe’s Foundation paves a path to a better future for our young people through the college’s trades programs,” PBSC President Ava L. Parker said. “Serving this vital initiative, we are excited to provide this opportunity to our county, one that ensures career readiness and enhances the economic mobility of our students and their families. I would like to express my gratitude to the Lowe’s Foundation for its generosity and belief in our mission to transform lives and strengthen the community.”

Key to PBSC’s plan is the creation of a unique training space on the Lake Worth campus. The Construction Trades Center for Workforce Innovation will simulate construction jobsite conditions, providing real-world experiences for students. The center will incorporate both residential and commercial construction sites — an innovative smart house and an office suite facility — and be equipped with all the tools and equipment needed to design, build and renovate.

The Construction Trades Center will be integrated into the 150,000-square-foot Education and Training Center, which houses the majority of the college’s industrial and technical programs. The PBSC programs directly supported by the grant train students to become building construction specialists and managers; architectural drafters; electricians; heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians; smart home technology installers; engineering technicians; and welders. The simulated jobsites will be continuously constructed and then torn down for the next classes to tackle.

“We are proud to partner with the Lowe’s Foundation for its first-ever Gable Grant for the PBSC Construction Trades Center for Workforce Innovation,” said David A. Rutherford, vice president of advancement and CEO of the Foundation for Palm Beach State College. “By enhancing education and training, Palm Beach State and Lowe’s are introducing a ‘next generation in trades’ initiative that provides an essential pipeline of highly skilled professionals to local industries and the Palm Beach County workforce.”

In addition to Palm Beach State College, nine other community and technical colleges across the nation were awarded grants.

“These deserving schools are driving transformation in the skilled trades workforce through sustainable and inclusive career pathways. We had many outstanding applicants for these grants, which speaks to the urgency needed to increase the capacity for skilled trades labor nationwide,” said Janice Dupré, chair of the Lowe’s Foundation. “Our grants are inclusive of all groups to ensure that we achieve the overall goal of preparing 50,000 people for skilled trades careers in five years, including groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the trades, such as women, people of color, people in rural areas and individuals participating in second-chance programs. We are confident that these college programs will strengthen the skilled trades infrastructure for years to come.”

In addition to these grants, the Lowe’s Foundation will invest at least $5 million more to assist community-based nonprofit organizations and national nonprofit partners with a strong local presence. This puts the foundation on pace to invest more than $12 million in 2023 as part of its $50 million, five-year commitment.