Eric Smidt, chairman and CEO of Harbor Freight Tools, in an email to Harbor Freight customers, announced the winners of the annual Harbor Freight "Tools for Schools" Prize for Teaching Excellence. Prizes are awarded annually to skilled trades teachers and their high schools.
"I have a special place in my heart for skilled trades teachers, especially those who teach in high school," Smidt said in the email.
"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," Smidt said. "Even at Harbor Freight Tools, as we’re building and opening two new stores every week, we struggle to find enough skilled electricians, carpenters, plumbers and HVAC technicians."
Smidt said a desire to support skilled trades education in American public high schools led to the creation in 2017 of the annual Harbor Freight "Tools for Schools" Prize for Teaching Excellence.
Harbor Freight Tools recently awarded more than $1 million in prizes to high school skilled trades teachers and their high schools across the country.
The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools team, with the help of regional managers from Harbor Freight Tools stores, visited the schools and surprised these extraordinary teachers with the news that they and their schools had won cash prizes. Three first-place winners received $100,000, and 15 second-place winners received $50,000, with the awards divided between the teacher and the school's skilled trades 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 surprise announcements were captured on video, and can be viewed here.
Smidt said some of the winners will appear in the Harbor Freight Tools monthly coupon book that reaches 10 million people each month. Stories about the winners can be found here.
Harbor Freight Tools also provided a $1,000 gift card to the 34 semi-finalists to support their high school’s skilled trades programs.
Smidt said another $1 million in prizes will be awarded in 2019. Applications are now open for the 2019 prize.
"If you know a great high school skilled trades teacher, please encourage them to apply through June 17 at hftforschoolsprize.org/," Smidt said.
"Please join me in congratulating these amazing educators and in supporting skilled trades teachers and their students," Smidt said.