The Lowe’s Foundation has awarded a $750,000 grant to the Seattle Colleges for their Wood Technology Center, a division of Seattle Central College that offers training programs for students new to the trades as well as experienced carpenters.

The gift will bring two new positions to the center. One will help the program attract and retain students, place them in internships and apprenticeships in the local construction industry and later bring back those who want new skills needed to advance their professions. The other position will be a new site manager who will help with procurement, distributing materials and acquiring tools and equipment.

The gift is the largest private grant the program has ever received, and it is one of 11 community and technical colleges nationwide to benefit from the first wave of the Lowe’s Foundation Gable Grant program. Over the next five years, the foundation — which is a charitable arm of the North Carolina-based home improvement store — is giving $50 million to help prepare 50,000 people for skilled trades careers. 

At the Wood Technology Center, students can work toward earning a pre-apprenticeship construction training certificate, or associate degrees in carpentry or boat building. Recently the center added a nine-month residential construction certificate program.

Last year, Wood Tech’s future was uncertain when the Seattle Community Colleges district faced a budget crisis. After an outpouring of support, the colleges prioritized the center and made a series of decisions to stabilize the program financially, said Michael Beneke, a spokesperson for Seattle College Foundation. 

In addition, the state Legislature provided added support for staff and faculty with a full cost-of-living salary adjustment, which was given to them this year, Beneke said.

“The center is on a solid financial footing. We are positioned now to begin to grow programs,” Beneke said. The Lowe’s grant will allow for new growth at the center, he said.

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell applauded both the grant and programs like Seattle Promise, which is a partnership between the city, Seattle Public Schools and Seattle Colleges that creates opportunities for graduating seniors to gain trade skills. 

“More housing is critically needed to address affordability and homelessness — and to build our way out of this challenge, we need builders,” said Harrell in a statement.

Eighty-five percent of contractors say they have trouble finding skilled workers, said Denise Hill, Lowe’s Foundation board member and Lowe’s vice president of communications and community relations, in a news release.

“We’re proud to support Seattle’s top source of trained carpenters while building a sustainable and inclusive workforce to revitalize our homes, neighborhoods and infrastructure for the future,” Hill said.