Every manufacturing leader in America knows there’s a tremendous shortage of skilled labor. Many of their companies are suffering for it. But few CEOs are trying ways to ease the problem not only for themselves but also for others in the manufacturing community.
Stanley Black & Decker and CEO Jim Loree are doing exactly that with their launch of the Global Impact Challenge, a five-year, $25-million company commitment to help train more than three million skilled-trades workers. Starting next week, not-for-profits around the globe can apply for grants from the fund that aim to support workforce development and retraining programs.
“We thought this notion of having a challenge, where we funded not-for-profits to go out and do the hard work at the local level, would be really impactful,” Loree, who’s been CEO of the $16-billion maker of tools based in New Britain, Connecticut, since 2016, told Chief Executive. “We’re excited. It’s consistent with our strategy, and it helps solve one of the world’s big problems.”
Loree described what has become a familiar refrain for CEOs in manufacturing and construction, the industries most served by Stanley Black & Decker’s lineup that includes Craftsman, Stanley, Dewalt, Black & Decker and Bostitch brands. There are millions of open skilled jobs around the globe, mass retirements by boomers who’ve held many of them, and rising supply-chain challenges because of the pandemic and the disruptive effects of online commerce.
“The cycle feeds on itself,” Loree said. “Automation is progressing at a very fast rate in part because of labor shortages and in part because of the desire of [manufacturers] to move the supply chain closer to customers. Risk management and concentration, and e-commerce, are changing consumer expectations.
“So there are open jobs and skill mismatches and labor shortages in general. It’s a perfect storm. We all have to team up here and solve this global problem.”
Black Women Build trains women in carpentry, electrical and plumbing skills by restoring vacant and deteriorated houses in West Baltimore, Maryland. “Stanley Black & Decker’s support of the skilled trades is fantastic for the nonprofit community,” Shelley Halstead, founder of the organization, said in a press release. “Organizations like ours work really hard to make an impact in our communities and provide the training for women to have fulfilling careers. But it’s pretty much impossible without financial support from companies or individuals who believe in what we do.”
Part of the impetus for the Global Impact Challenge, Loree explained, comes from an ESG strategy that he introduced a few years ago emphasizing “empowering makers” who “are our end users” and giving these people “skills for upward mobility and employment and a better future for them and their families.”
The company’s approach, he said, recognized that “a lot of plants are in local areas around the world, such as the plants that you find in a lot of small towns in the U.S. In many cases, they’re somewhat isolated from big population centers. So upskilling has to take place on a local basis, in some cases with local not-for-profits, and sometimes national or regional organizations that have local activities. In the end, it’s all local, on the ground.
“You can do virtual upskilling, but when it comes to manufacturing in particular, upskilling needs to happen at the [physical] point of contact.”
Loree said that Stanley Black & Decker has learned much about the effectiveness of local training organizations from its approach to training its own workers. “You can’t sit here in an ivory tower and upskill people,” he said. “There are community college, and local organizations, who are working with factory and construction workers who are doing the work for us. Funding some of these organizations is for our benefit too.”