A trade school disguised as a tech company is one step closer to reality. Recently, Fixer, an on-demand home repair startup, raised $4 million in private funding.
“There are not enough handymen and women available to serve the needs of the residential and commercial space,” said Mike Evans, founder of Fixer. “This funding is all about giving us the ability and resources we need to grow and open an in-house trade school.”
Evans co-founded GrubHub, an online and mobile restaurant delivery service, and made millions when the company went public. Now he has set his sights on solving the skilled-trades gap, a deficit expected to grow as baby boomers retire without younger workers to take their place. Trades include handymen, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, roofers, painters, and construction workers.
“We purposefully chartered as a public benefit corporation to increase the number of sustainable career paths for men and women in home repair trades,” said Evans. “It’s not enough to just provide a great service or disrupt a traditional industry with technology.”
The trade school is slated to open in September. Fixer is only available in Chicago, but the funding also will go to future expansion.
Right now, “Fixers” are experienced home-repair professionals, who receive benefits, equity, and continuing education. The in-house trade school students will attend classes and work as apprentices, getting hands-on training along with entry-level wages.
“They’ll be able to start earning quickly by doing real jobs for real customers instead of going to school by day and then doing something completely unrelated by night,” Evans said. “We’re innovating not just from a startup perspective but from a trade school education infrastructure perspective.”
The states also are addressing the skilled-labor shortages. Colorado residents can attend a free four-week program, which provides an introduction to skilled trades careers including hands-on training. On the last week, Construction Careers Now students get connected with employers.
“Colorado continues to grow and offer a variety of jobs to Coloradoans. Our goal is filling those jobs with qualified, local talent quick enough to keep up with growth,” said Lt. Governor Donna Lynne. “This program puts individuals on a fast-track to both learn a trade and be connected quickly with companies offering well-paying jobs.”
A recent program graduate Elijah Beauford wants to build a future for himself and his community. “I want to be able to break the mold, become one of the first and only black contractors in Colorado [and] on top of that be able to make and manage affordable living for minorities in the community,” said Beauford, who had top grades and accolades in high school.
Michigan Department of Corrections offers an innovative skilled trades program in two of its facilities to address the labor shortage and help reduce recidivism. Inmates who are scheduled for release within one to two years enter the Vocational Village where they receive all-day intensive training in nine categories including auto repair, robotics, and welding.
Inmates can earn state and national certifications in their disciplines. As incentives to hire the released prisoners, their employers receive a federal bond program for free and tax credit.
As more skilled-trade training programs like these are offered, we may see an improvement in the nationwide labor shortage.