Harbor Freight has awarded 52 North American high school trades teachers with a total of $1 million as part of its annual "Tools for Schools" excellence in education award.
"I have a special place in my heart for skilled trades teachers, especially those who teach in high school," said Eric Smidt, Harbor Freight founder. "We depend on skilled trades workers. They fix the cars we drive, they build and repair the homes we live in and they do so much more. Yet more than 1.5 million skilled trades workers will retire by 2024, and there are not nearly enough students entering the trades to fill those jobs."
Harbor Freight awarded three first-place winners with $100,000 and 15 second-place winners with $50,000 each. Each award was divided between the teacher and the school's skilled trades program. 34 additional semi-finalists were awarded with a $1,000 giftcard to support their high school's program.
The first-place winners were:
- Charles Kachmar, who teaches metals and welding at Maxwell High School of Technology in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and whose students give back to the community by building beds for local homeless women and children in need of emergency shelter.
- Gary Bronson, an industrial diesel mechanics teacher at Laurel Oaks Career Campus in Wilmington, Ohio, whose students work on an International ProStar truck, replacing the brakes, wiring the lighting and completing its annual inspection.
- Andrew J. Neumann, a building trades teacher at Bay Arenac Intermediate School District Career Center in Bay City, Michigan, whose students design, build and market a new house from the ground up.
The announcements, which came as a surprise, were captured on video above.
Harbor Freight will repeat the contest again next year. Applications are now open for 2019.
"Skilled trades teachers are unsung heroes; they teach our students skills that help them in life and in careers," says Smidt. "These skilled and creative workers keep our communities thriving. We want to elevate the dignity and importance of this work by recognizing exceptional skilled trades teachers from our country's public schools who open the door to learning and opportunity."