Recently, The Home Depot expanded its Path to Pro program to include both English and Spanish versions of its resource library, training, video content and downloadable guides found on PathtoPro.com. The program launched in 2021 to address the growing skilled labor shortage by offering a range of resources, skilled trades training and networking opportunities. But what is the Path to Pro program?
We sat down with Jenna Arca, director of workforce development, The Home Depot, to talk more in depth about this initiative. “Our role and what we do here is create and implement programs to not only attract people to the trades but also to train them to get them prepared for their future in the trades and to help them find jobs with our Pro customers that shop with us every day.”
According to Arca, the Path to Pro program is completely funded by The Home Depot, providing those interested in the skilled trades an opportunity to connect with a contractor in the Path to Pro Network, the company’s jobseeker marketplace.
The following are excerpts from our conversation, which you can listen to in its entirety below.
FLOOR Trends & Installation: Who is the Path to Pro program's target audience?
Jenna Arca: Our target audience is really anybody who's looking to enter the skilled trades. That could be somebody who's looking to acquire new skills and join the trades for the very first time; or it could be somebody who's looking to make a career change into something completely different than what they've been doing; or it could be somebody that has been in the trades that is looking to upskill and refresh some of their skills that they have today.
Anyone can take the program. We've got thousands of skilled jobs that Pros are looking for and they're looking for people who are anywhere from entry level to people who have five to 10 years of experience, 10 plus years. It really is a great career choice and path for them. So, anybody could come to the table and join the trades.
FTI: Once participants have completed training. How does the program help them find a job?
Arca: Once participants have completed the training, it is designed to give them the knowledge to make them qualified job seekers within The Home Depot’s Path to Pro Network and get them ready to interact with our Pro customers that are in need of the skilled labor.
Ultimately, what we're finding is that our Pro customers in general are looking for entry level labor too. And so, for somebody who has no skills in the trades, it's a great entry point to get them in there with some basic foundational knowledge. Skilled tradespeople need to be 18 and older to create a profile in the Path to Pro Network. It's a free job seeker marketplace that we have created to connect those tradespeople that are job seekers to our hiring professionals that we have that are in construction and in home improvement that shop with us every day.
From a job seeker perspective, those folks can create a profile where they can showcase some of their trades experience. If they don't have a ton of trades experience, they could include things like if they've done volunteering out in the community. They could show pictures and talk about their volunteer experience. They could talk about how some of the transferable skills like project management and communication are great soft skills to bring into the trades. And so, some of those things, they can amplify their profiles by talking about.
FTI: What are the benefits of this program?
Arca: The benefits of the Home Depot's Path to Pro program are three components. We offer support throughout the trades career journey from end to end. From the beginning, if you're somebody who's starting out new and wanting to engage in the trades, we've got PathtoPro.com that is a website that we have built as a resource library that's available in English and Spanish that provides how-to guides and video content. This is where they can sign up for the free training as well as sign up for the Network to become a job seeker. But it's got information on the variety of different trades career paths that can give them some knowledge on what a career in construction looks like.
The second component is our entry level training program. The Path to Pro skills program is a free introductory trades program available in English and Spanish as of recently for those that are interested in growing their career in the skilled trades. We take advantage of the fact that we built this in virtual and on-demand content so people can take this on their own time.
If they've got other life responsibilities and things like that, they can take this when they need to. But the program itself gives them some basic foundational knowledge within the skilled trades but also gives them some entry level components to HVAC, electrical, plumbing, drywall and painting.
The third component is our Path to Pro Network. We are committed to helping these people find and connect them to jobs that are out there through our Pro customers. It really is a job seeker marketplace that is exclusively for the trades industry—only people that are there looking to hire folks in the trades and nothing else. And that's something that we have heard from our jobseekers that they love. Other places out there try to recruit them to do other types of jobs. It's about jobseekers that are in the trades utilizing these digital tools to look for a job and apply for job postings that our Pros have created, but [it’s] also [about] being ready to connect with those Pros who might be also looking to hire those people.
FTI: How many people are in the Pro program?
Arca: We've got millions of Pros that shop with us every day that are a part of our loyalty program called Pro Extra. Those hiring employers have to be within Pro Extra, and this is a free benefit to them by being a part of that loyalty program to get them access to those jobseekers.
And from a jobseeker perspective, we've continued to grow. We have over 15 ,000 jobseekers that are now in the tool that are looking for jobs.
FTI: How was the skills program developed?
Arca: The skills program was developed by us listening to our customers. That's how it first started. We listened to our Pro customers tell us what their needs were to find people to come and work for them. And a lot of what they told us was if you can find somebody who starts with me, who has a positive attitude and a willingness to learn as well as has the soft skills and communication skills, I'm happy to teach them the rest from the on-the-job skills training. That's how, foundationally, we started building this program.
Our skills basics coursework within the program started with what does a career in construction look like? How do you get started in the trades? How do you stand out from a profile perspective? We talked about the soft skills needed to be successful within the trade. Communication is a key thing and working with others is also a key thing because you could be on a jobsite in front of customers and things like that, so they wanted to make sure those people had the skills to be successful.
Since we launched in 2021, we've added more content based on what our jobseekers and those students told us that they needed. They told us, hey, I want to learn a little bit more about specific trades. We developed another segment called Trades Essentials within that coursework that gives them the basics of general construction, paint, electrical, HVAC and plumbing and some jobsite tools as well as OSHA safety. We're continuing to grow that curriculum into other trade types over the next couple of years.
FTI: What all does the training include start to finish?
Arca: Start to finish the training includes that somebody would sign up for the Path to Pro Skills program, take our skills basics curriculum that would give them the basics in construction—what to expect when you get on a jobsite, some fundamental jobsite safety benefits as well as an introduction to hand tools, power tools, things that they may not have used before as well as some of those soft skill components.
Once they have finished that coursework, it is completely up to them if they want to stop or start and continue more coursework, but they can continue to go on to do things like trades essentials, where they can dive deeper into specific trade types and learn a little bit more of that knowledge. Think about it like if I were to take electrical, for example, I may not be somebody who has ever wired a three -way receptacle, but I took a training class that showed me how. So, when they get on the jobsite, they're just a little bit more successful and a little bit more aware of how it works, but now they can use that application to do the hands-on componentry of it.
That's one of the beauties of the skills program. They don't have to take it in a linear fashion. They could take it as they see fit. Maybe they've finished a couple coursework modules and they stopped for a little bit, and then they decide, oh, hey, I want to go finish and learn more about OSHA, because I need my OSHA 10 card. Let's go in there and get started and do some more.
FTI: I know that The Home Depot recently expanded the program. What does this expansion include and what are the new goals?
Arca: Our goals really haven't changed too much. We still want to continue to introduce people into the trades as well as get more people that are looking for jobs and making it easier for them to connect and find those jobs.
We expanded our program for PathtoPro.com and the Path to Pro skills program by offering it in Spanish. What that has done is allowed us to reach and engage an additional diverse workforce that we were being told we needed to continue engaging with and really making those resources and that training more accessible to build out a successful trades career for them.
Participants can navigate when they go onto these tools between English and Spanish and explore over 80 trades resources that we have and the training courses that are also available in Spanish through the skills program.
We do have digital and downloadable guides that are available in English and in Spanish for trades professionals who are looking to build a profile within the Path to Pro network for them to use as well.
FTI: Is there anything else on the horizon for the Path to Pro program?
Arca: We listen to our customers and to anything that we do here at The Home Depot, whether it's [from] our associates or our customers, we are constantly gathering feedback. As we continue to improve the Path to Pro program, we're going to be working closely with our customers to understand their feedback—how is it working? How can we shape the program differently? How can we apply that to the future of the program?
We are continuing to do research and benchmarking. What we're seeing happening out there in the industry is right now there's over 400,000 jobs that are open in the trades. It's expected to grow to 3 .9 million in the next decade based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So, when you think about that, we have to stay up to date on what's happening from a macro standpoint in the home improvement industry and continue prioritizing different things that we want to do based on the need.
Another thing is we just want to continue to evolve this for the needs of the industry. Not only that, but [for] the people who are looking to get employment, so those jobseekers, but also [for] our Pros—how can we help make them successful and help their businesses as well?