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In joining hands with students, educators and our nonprofit partners, we know the hard work we put in together today will produce our leaders of tomorrow. For the seventh consecutive year, Lowe's continued that work through our partnership with SkillsUSA®.

There is a shortage of skilled workers across the United States and Canada, and the gap is expected to widen between workers needed in North America and the workers who have the necessary skills. To help close the skills gap, Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation proudly supports SkillsUSA and the students it serves. The national nonprofit, student-led organization is comprised of more than 310,000 members. SkillsUSA helps high school and postsecondary students excel through world-class technical education coupled with training in leadership, character development and commitment to community service.

As part of the largest corporate donation in SkillsUSA history, Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation extended its partnership in 2010. Along with support from our vendor partners, SkillsUSA received a new five-year, $1.5 million annual commitment from Lowe's Foundation. This will bring Lowe's total commitment to more than $10 million by 2014.

In 2010, Lowe's Foundation awarded 34 grants of up to $10,000 each to SkillsUSA chapters and $208,000 to support TeamWorks competitions in 30 states. Lowe's also donated $327,000 worth of Kobalt tools to 361 automotive classes.

Also in 2010, Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation strengthened its support of trades education in Canada by partnering with Skills / Compétences Canada. Lowe's Foundation will donate $1.25 million through 2014 to the national organization. As we expanded our store presence from eastern to western Canada, we also expanded our commitment to youth across the country. The $1.25 million contribution will support high school-based projects in Alberta and Ontario, and Lowe's will reach out to other regions as we establish retail locations in more communities.

According to the Conference Board of Canada, a shortage of more than 1 million skilled workers is predicted by 2020, with an estimated 40% of all new jobs in the skilled trades and technology industries.

"Skilled trades are the foundation of industries that drive the Canadian economy," said Donovan Elliott, president of Skills / Compétences Canada. "With help from Lowe's, we can continue to help inspire and encourage youth to pursue career paths in skilled trades and technology, while ensuring industry has the pipeline of skilled labor workers that they need for the future."

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