Nominations for HFTS $1M Teaching Excellence Awards Ends May 21

CALABASAS, Calif.  — Applications are being accepted until May 21 for the 2021 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence. The fifth annual program will award cash prizes totaling more than $1 million to 18 of America’s best public high school skilled trades teachers and their programs.

Nominations can be submitted at

The mission of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is to increase understanding, support of and investment in skilled trades education in U.S. public high schools. The Prize for Teaching Excellence is its flagship program.

“We’re honored to shine a spotlight on excellent skilled trades teaching and learning in America’s public high schools and bring well-deserved attention to these amazing educators,” said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “In the five years since the prize was created, we have celebrated more than 70 prize-winning teachers from around the country and continue to collaborate with them to advance this important field of education.”

The best-skilled trades programs embody what great hands-on teaching and learning should look like in any classroom, for any subject. Excellent skilled trades teachers use project-based learning, teach skills like leadership and collaboration, and help students apply academics to the real world.

The past year has been a challenging time for all educators and skilled trades teachers have needed to be inventive to offer hands-on learning at a distance when schools were closed. The 2021 application will provide an opportunity for trades teachers to share how they adjusted and kept their students engaged.

The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence was started in 2017 by Harbor Freight Tools owner and founder Eric Smidt. The prize recognizes outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in U.S. public high schools and the valuable work of teachers who inspire students to learn a trade that prepares them for life after graduation.

Past winners of the prize are teachers who have led their students to rebuild homes destroyed by hurricanes, manufacture parts for major aerospace companies and run live automotive repair shops on their high school campuses.

“Think of terrific skilled trades teachers at your neighborhood high school or career and tech center, or the teacher who helped you learn your trade,” Smidt said. “First, thank them. Then tell them to apply for the prize.”

About the Prize:

  • Harbor Freight Tools for Schools has received more than 2,600 applications for the prize since 2017.
  • The benefits of the prize have had an impact on more than 50,000 students in skilled trades programs nationwide.
  • More than $3.5 million in cash awards have been given to 72 winning teachers and their skilled trades programs.
  • Winning teachers are invited to the annual Let’s Build It Institute, a three-day convening hosted by Harbor Freight Tools for Schools where teachers share best practices and pilot innovative ideas.
  • Three grand prize winners will receive $100,000 each, with $70,000 going to their high school skilled trades program and $30,000 going directly to the individual skilled trades teacher.
  • Fifteen additional prize winners will each win $50,000, with $35,000 going to the high school program and $15,000 going to the teacher.
  • Teachers whose school, district or state policy prohibits the receipt of the individual portion of prize earnings are eligible to apply on behalf of their school’s skilled trades program.
  • The application process and the prize are designed to give teachers access to ideas and practices through a network of like-minded exceptional educators and leaders.
  • For updates on the prize, follow Harbor Freight Tools for Schools on Instagram and Twitter.

View past Teaching Excellence award winners. 


Studies Find Strong Support for Skilled Trades Education

Two new studies commissioned by Harbor Freight Tools for Schools (HFTS) examine the state of high school skilled trades education and what American think about it.

Highlighted findings of the studies include:

  • More than 1 million students study skilled trades in high school.
  • Eight in 10 voters favor increased public funding for skilled trades education and think it should be a priority in high school.
  • Eight in 10 parents say their children would be better prepared for the future if they had a chance to study a trade in high school.

Each of the studies was conducted by an independent organization — JFF, a nonprofit that works to drive economic advancement for all Americans, and NORC, a nonpartisan polling organization at the University of Chicago.

According to HTFS, “Our hope was to start productive conversations about the potential of high school skilled trades education to uplift students, families, communities, and our economy.”

Download the studies.


Harbor Freight Offers $1M in Prizes for Teacher Excellence Awards

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2019 Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence sponsored by Harbor Freight Tools for Schools.

Skilled trades teachers of U.S. public schools are invited to enter the third annual awards program that features $1 million in cash and prizes. The entry deadline is June 17, 2019.

Three first-place winners will receive $100,000 and 15 second-place winners will receive $50,000. The the awards will be divided between the winning teacher and the school’s skilled trades program. In addition, 35 semi-finalists will receive a $1,000 gift card to support their high school’s skilled trades programs.

Eric Smidt, founder of Harbor Freight, said, “I have a special place in my heart for skilled trades teachers, especially those who teach in high school. We depend on skilled trades workers. They fix the cars we drive, they build and repair the homes we live in and they do so much more. Yet more than 1.5 million skilled trades workers will retire by 2024, and there are not nearly enough students entering the trades to fill those jobs. Even at Harbor Freight Tools, as we’re building and opening two new stores every week, we struggle to find enough skilled electricians, carpenters, plumbers and HVAC technicians.”

To learn more about the awards program and to nominate, visit

Click here to read about last year’s winners.


Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Awards Top Teachers

Harbor Freight Tools for Schools awarded more than $1 million in cash and prizes to the teachers of 52 U.S. public high school skilled trade programs.

Three first-place prizes of $100,000 were awarded with $70,000 going to the public high school skilled trades program and $30,000 to the individual skilled trades teacher or teacher team behind the winning program. In addition, 15 second-place winners each received $50,000 with $35,000 going to the program and $15,000 to the teacher/team. Wes Crawford and Josh Gary, instructors of the Woods Manufacturing, Welding, and Agriscience program at Sutherlin High School in OR were among the second place winners.

Of the 34 semi-finalists, two were woodworking instructors, including Seth Thomas, Wood and Metalworking at Cedarcrest High School in WA and Molly Turner, Wood Manufacturing Technologies at
Ignacio High School in CO.

Harbor Freight Tools for Schools, a program of the Smidt Foundation, is dedicated to the advancement of skilled trades education in America. The Teaching Excellence Prize was created to foster and shine a light on excellence in skilled trades education in public high schools.

This was the second annual Teaching Excellence Prize. Nominations for the 2019 program will open next spring.

Learn more about the HTFS Teaching Excellence Prize.

Harbor Freight Supports High School CTE Programs in a Big Way

Harbor Freight, a discount tool retailer based in Calabasas, CA, is furthering its commitment to support U.S. public high school career and technical education programs.

In 2013, Harbor Freight launched Harbor Freight Tools for Schools (HTFS) and donated $1.5 million worth of tools to the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Last year, the company awarded more than $550,000 in prizes through its inaugural HTFS Prize for Teaching Excellence. Three first-place winners each won $30,000 for themselves and $70,000 to support their programs; seven second-place winners each won $10,000 and $20,000 to support their programs and 44 semi-finalists each received a $1,000 tool donation for their programs.

Several of the winners instruct woodworking programs, including first-place winner Jonathan Swartz, who teaches advanced manufacturing and woodworking at Colfax High School in Colfax, CA, and second-place winners Cole Smith and Bill Hartman, who teach construction, woodworking and design at Rancho Cotate High School in California.

Nearly 700 entries were received for the 2017 HTFS Prize for Teaching Excellence. HTFS plans to announced details for its 2018 program to award more than $1 million in cash and prizes May 1 and will accept applications between May 16 and July 6. To learn more watch the video below and visit

In addition to the Prize for Teaching Excellence, representatives of U.S. public high school skill trades programs can request a gift card donation for tools. Click here to learn more.