Students at the Carbon Career & Technical Institute (CCTI) in Jim Thorpe will be enjoying more than an updated and enlarged school building when they return to school in the fall. Some will have new tools to learn with. Thanks to national program, sponsored by Lowe's Companies Inc. and Kobalt Tools, students that attend CCTI's Auto Service & Technology Shop will have more opportunity to gain the skills they need to succeed.

The 2010 "Toolbox for Education" program is made possible by a partnership between Lowe's and Kobalt Tools in association with SkillsUSA. The goal is to help the next generation of trade professionals develop their skills by providing tools for learning. The partnership will see $440,000 in tools go to benefit 400 SkillsUSA Automotive Service Technology programs across the nation. Because CCTI enjoys 100 percent student and staff participation in the SkillsUSA Professional Development Program (PDP), it was chosen to receive an award. The PDP focuses on teaching students the employment and "soft" skills necessary to be successful in their chosen careers.

On Friday April 30, CCTI SkillsUSA advisor Hal Resh and his students traveled to the Lowe's Store in Hazelton to meet with store manager Wayne Brooks, commercial sales specialist Timothy Rehrig, human resource associate Sarah Daubert, and administrative manager Nina Kobusky, to receive the award.

"This is a wonderful example of how industry works to partner with education for the betterment of the Auto program and the success of my students," said Resh. "SkillsUSA has played a huge role in the transformation of my students because it has provided skills and leadership training that they won't get anywhere else. This support from Lowe's and Kobalt Tools reinforces what we are teaching in the classroom and shows the value of education-industry partnerships."

The national program kicked off in March at the Lowe's of Edgewood in Atlanta, where four-time reining NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson personally delivered the first sets of tools to students from Jonesboro High School. He made the visit to the Lowe's store just prior to the March 7 Kobalt Tools 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

"By working with Kobalt Tools and SkillsUSA to provide tools to these students, Lowe's is able to help prepare the future of America's skilled workforce in their chosen career paths," Resh said. "I will share this donation with my fellow trade teachers here at CCTI."

SkillsUSA is a national nonprofit organization serving teachers and high school and college students who are preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations, including health occupations. It was formerly known as VICA (Vocational Industrial Clubs of America). The organization serves more than 300,000 students and instructors annually in 13,000 school chapters in 54 state and territorial associations.