NASCAR legend Richard Petty is working to fix one of the country's biggest labor problems - a shortage of workers in the trades.
On December 8th, Petty donated thousands of dollars worth of tools to his former high school in Randleman, North Carolina. The donation is part of a partnership he’s launching with Northern Tool + Equipment (NTE) and their Tools for the Trades™ program. The partnership is fueled by Petty’s passion for the trades, particularly welding. Both Petty and NTE are passionate about encouraging today’s youth to develop trade skills.
While the donation of tools is awesome, how will this program help encourage young people to enter trade jobs?
Suresh Krishna, CEO of Northern Tool + Equipment: The idea behind the Tools for the Trades™ program is to expand students’ skill sets and spark passion and curiosity in the trades. We’re giving instructors the right tools to properly teach the trades skills and expose students to professional-grade tools that can prepare them for careers in the trades. These tools will improve the in-class experience and support schools’ career and technical education opportunities, thus reaching more students and inspiring them to consider a trade-related career path. Northern Tool + Equipment has partnered with 13 schools through Tools for the Trades™ so far, and we plan to add a minimum of 20 schools per year going forward.
Richard Petty: This program helps students get hands-on experience with professional-grade tools and equipment. We’re always going to need people to build and fix things in this country. Pro-grade tools can make all the difference in learning a skill like welding, delivering a successful project and enjoying the work. Those experiences can spark a passion for the trades, and we know donations like this help schools grow their trade learning options.
Which vocations are you focused on?
Krishna: Our program is focused on 5 key vocations: automotive, welding, electricians, plumbing and concrete work. We’re committed to supporting and working to grow the labor force in all of these areas.
Petty: Many know me for my NASCAR career, but I learned a trade at a young age. Welding has been a passion of mine most of my life, and I’ve done a lot of welding on race cars. So, I’m a bit biased towards welding, but this program benefits all vocations.
With the ever-increasing complexities of modern automobiles, will this program also help to train mechanics to work on hybrid and electric cars?
Krishna: What I love about the schools we work with is they are committed to preparing their students for the future. At Northern Tool + Equipment, we prioritize innovation. That’s why we’ve made such a commitment to battery-powered tools. Our Tools for the Trades™ program is no different. We’re focused on providing the right professional-grade tools, equipment and gear to allow instructors to prepare kids for what is next. This will help students build a foundation of knowledge that will help prepare them when faced with the complexities of modern vehicles.
Petty: Having been around cars my whole life, I’ve witnessed firsthand how much they change and advance over the years. It’s crucial to continue investing in the next generation of mechanics and providing the appropriate resources to help them stay up to date with modern automobiles. I partnered with Northern Tool + Equipment and their Tools for the Trades™ program to help give students and future trade workers access to high-end tools they’ll use in professional settings.
Will Petty GMS be directly involved in this program?
Krishna: This is the start of a great partnership between Northern Tool + Equipment’s Tools for the Trades™ program and Richard Petty. He’s going to be an ambassador for this program. His passion for welding and the trades made this a natural partnership. What better way to start than by giving back to Petty’s hometown?
Petty: I’m excited to partner with the Tools for the Trades™ program. I love its commitment to preparing the next generation of tradespeople, and I want to do everything I can to help fill the pipeline of skilled laborers for the future. I believe in what they are doing, and today, at my former high school, it was great to get started.
What, in your opinion, is the solution to the trade employee shortage?
Krishna: For some students, a four-year degree is a great option, while for others, pursuing the Trades makes more sense. Skilled workers complete rigorous courses, apprenticeships, and training. They possess highly specific knowledge and understanding of their chosen trade. Working in the trades can also be a financially smart decision. Through programs like Tools for the Trades™, we’re exposing students to options beyond a four-year degree and showing that they have a wide range of opportunities in the trades. We also believe that by supporting these classes and teachers with high-quality professional tools, we will spark a passion for the trades in students. Programs like these invest in the skilled trades pipeline of tomorrow.
Petty: Having welding knowledge served me well. The trades, and welding in particular, have always been a passion of mine. I see the value of these skills every day in Petty’s Garage and with our race teams. We know donations like this help make it easier for schools to grow their trade learning options which will then fuel curiosity and passion for the trades long-term. Good tools make a difference in completing a successful project and enjoying the work. Equipment is everything.
Of the manufacturing workforce today, nearly 25% are 55 or older. As those workers age out of the workforce, there aren’t enough young people pursuing the trades to take their places. Petty is now throwing his weight behind an effort to make a difference.