By The Financial District
Billionaire Backs Vocational Training In U.S. High School
Home improvement billionaire Eric Smidt never went to college. Now he’s become one of the largest backers of skilled trades education in American high schools, Lauren Debter reported for Forbes.
Photo Insert: Eric Smidt, co-founder and chief executive of Harbor Freight Tools, a discount home improvement chain with 1,400 stores and $7 billion in annual sales, has been funneling money into classrooms like the one at Montecito High since 2017.
In Nicholas Jordan’s high school classroom, students learn how to read a blueprint, put up framing, and assemble a roof.
Their skills are in hot demand. Many go on to full-time jobs as carpenters, plumbers or electricians, making enough money to put a down payment on a house by the time they’re 24, said Jordan.
“I have people calling me every day to hire my students. Every day,” Jordan, 44, who teaches at Montecito High School, a continuation school in San Diego, told Forbes. “Our students are not bound for college and that’s okay,” Jordan said.
Billionaire Eric Smidt agrees. The co-founder and chief executive of Harbor Freight Tools, a discount home improvement chain with 1,400 stores and $7 billion in annual sales, has been funneling money into classrooms like the one at Montecito High since 2017.
His foundation’s flagship program, Harbor Freight Tools for Schools, has donated $6 million to skilled trade teachers at public high schools over the past five years to help them prepare students for careers in welding, construction, auto repair, plumbing, electric or manufacturing.
“Harbor Freight is working directly with teachers to determine what they need to keep their classrooms cutting edge,” said Chelle Travis, executive director of SkillsUSA, a nonprofit that promotes skilled trades.
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