Nashville’s Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park will look a little different this Labor Day weekend — starting Friday, 1,670 bright yellow hard hats will dot the grass in the shape of the United States.
Michigan-based workwear brand Carhartt created the installation to honor American workers, provide a symbol of hope in a pandemic-shaken job market, and highlight the jobs currently available in skilled trades.
“This year, as we think about how hard people have been working, harder than ever before … we wanted to take the opportunity to spotlight those folks and recognize them, and also remind them we’re in a very turbulent job market, but there are a lot of great jobs out there,” Carhartt Chief Brand Officer Tony Ambroza said in an interview.
The 1,670 hard hats represent the 1.67 million job openings in construction, manufacturing, mining, logging, transportation, trade and utilities throughout the United States in June alone, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Carhartt estimates this number could be higher if agriculture and farming trades were included.
Carhartt also hopes the installation will draw attention to a growing gap between the number of people entering skilled trades and the number of jobs available. Ambroza said skilled trade industries have lacked a “consistent pipeline of talent and people entering those positions and jobs on a regular basis,” leading to a shortage as older skilled tradespeople retire. This gap was easier to track before the pandemic, he noted.
“Now, I think it’s fair to say that the gap relates to the people who are capable, willing or able to transition their careers to an industry that’s been hardest hit to career opportunities in the skilled trades, and will need the training in order to do so, but may not know how to go about it,” Ambroza said.
To help address this issue, Carharrt will donate the proceeds from all of its online sales from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. EDT on Labor Day to SkillsUSA, a nonprofit organization that partners with schools to teach students skills for more than 130 trade, technical and skilled service occupations.
Since its founding in 1965, SkillsUSA has served nearly 14 million members, and currently has more than 372,000 annual paid memberships across America’s middle schools, high schools and colleges. Now, SkillsUSA instructors are facing a challenge alongside schools throughout the nation: how to navigate virtual teaching and learning, something that’s not easy for hands-on skilled trades, Ambroza noted.
Nashville was the obvious choice for the installation, given its ongoing construction boom, Ambroza said. Carhartt also has ties to Tennessee — one of its main manufacturing facilities has operated in Camden since 1993, and Tractor Supply Company, one of Carhartt’s largest retail partners, is based in Tennessee.
For the third year in a row, Carhartt will close its retail stores and U.S. manufacturing facilities, including the Camden facility, on Labor Day.
More information on Carhartt’s Labor Day campaign and how to support the donation to SkillsUSA can be found at www.Carhartt.com/labor-day.
Photo Credit: Jon Morgan AP Images for Carhartt