Tool Time: DEWALT's Grow the Trades Grant Program

DEWALT is helping develop the incoming construction workforce through its Grow the Trades grant program—which recently made a generous donation of tools to the ABC of Indiana/Kentucky Prep Academy.
By Maggie Murphy
March 21, 2024

DEWALT is on a mission to empower the trades. No stranger to the needs of the construction industry—the tool company has been a leading name in the space since 1924—DEWALT is hammering away at the skilled-labor shortage through its Grow the Trades grant program, a five-year, $30-million effort to help skill, reskill and upskill tradespeople.

“Workforce development is probably the number-one concern of any contractor in the industry,” says Tony WeWora, account manager for DEWALT’s parent company, Stanley Black & Decker. “Our efforts are aimed at closing the skilled-labor gap by supporting organizations that are developing tradespeople. This funding for educational programs connects more people to training and provides more resources and opportunities that really allow them to lead successful careers in the trades.”

ABC of Indiana/Kentucky is one of the latest recipients of Grow the Grant funding, having just received a donation of more than 180 tools for use across its seven construction prep academies. “The mission [of the ABC prep academies] is to develop skilled and employable individuals and serve as an effective pipeline to aligned summer internships, employment and ABC apprenticeship opportunities leading to essential careers in the construction trades,” says Robert Kneberg, director of outreach for the chapter. “We are proud to partner with DEWALT toward developing the future of construction in Indiana.”

Each prep academy follows a standardized model of training that includes carpentry, electrical, HVAC and plumbing, so a student going through the program at most locations can get their NCCER Level 1 certification in those four trades while still in high school. The tools—including a variety of saws, levels, drills and hammers that the chapter requested from DEWALT—are applicable to all four trades.

“One of our pillars is relevant and realistic training, so we specifically requested the more common tools because we’re teaching basics and fundamentals,” Kneberg says. “We want these students to get real, experiential exposure to various trades to really determine, is construction the right fit for me? And then we can step in once they determine a direction and connect students with interviews with our member companies that are aligned with their interests.”

No matter the type of student—high-school grad, reentering citizen, second-career individual—the chapter’s multidisciplinary approach is working. “We have a roughly 90% year-one-to-year-two conversion, meaning that 90% of the students who complete the first program year come back for year two,” Kneberg says. “That kind of retention is just unheard of.”

And it’s just the sort of partnership DEWALT is looking for. The company may make the tools, but the tools don’t work unless skilled tradespeople do. “If you look at DEWALT as more of a partner than a manufacturer, we are really a solutions provider that is laser-focused on our users, and that extends well beyond manufacturing the tools,” WeWora says. “This type of collaboration is at the heart of everything we do.

“Our dedication to helping solve the construction industry’s needs is important to everyone in the world. We’re a global manufacturer that wants to make a difference in the world and be a force for good.”

by Maggie Murphy

Maggie handles Construction Executive’s production, scheduling and digital assets, in addition to editing our print content and writing feature articles, industry new briefs and a variety of topical columns. She’s a native Marylander and a graduate of Salisbury University, with a background working on the marketing team for a large general contractor.

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