Boot and clothing company Wolverine, in partnership with nonprofit unCommon Construction, is launching a special-edition collaboration to benefit high school students interested in pursuing careers in the skilled trades. The initiative is part of Wolverine’s Project Bootstrap program, which has supported those choosing to pursue a path in the skilled trades through a variety of efforts, including scholarships and educational awareness initiatives, since 2014.

The skilled labor shortage is not a new issue for the construction industry and is only projected to grow in magnitude in the near future. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts marketplace demand for skilled trades will grow through 2030, resulting in nearly 400,000 new jobs. However, a recent survey from Wolverine suggests the pipeline of new trades professionals does not align with the strong demand.

According to the Wolverine survey, while almost three-quarters of current high school students believe it is important to consider alternative options to a traditional four-year college, only 30% of students have considered vocational/trade schools. More than half of the respondents cited not knowing enough about trade schools or vocational schools as the top reason for not enrolling. Despite the knowledge gap, nearly 4 in 5 respondents on the Wolverine survey said they believe vocational skills should be taught in high schools.

“It is imperative we reach students in more relevant ways so they can learn more about skilled trades and consider them as a potential future path,” says Tom Kennedy, global brand president of Wolverine. “Organizations like unCommon Construction introduce kids to the rich opportunities to be found in the trades that they aren’t learning in school.”

unCommon Construction works with high school apprentices to build houses and gain technical, professional, and personal skills.

The expanded Project Bootstrap initiative is targeted directly to high school students who are still deciding on post-high school plans. The program includes funding for scholarships, a high school speaker series, a digital awareness campaign using Instagram and TikTok, and trades education resources for students, parents, and educators.

“At unCommon Construction, we see firsthand the interest and excitement young people experience learning about the opportunities they have in the skilled trades,” says Aaron Frumin, founder and executive director of unCommon Construction. “It’s rewarding to continue to partner with a brand like Wolverine that also recognizes the value of raising awareness to the trades while giving students the tools and access they need to be successful.”

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