On Monday, July 8, Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra kicked off his statewide tour at SCTCC to promote the Workforce Development Scholarships.
Last year, about 400 scholarships were available systemwide; this year that number increased to 668, and in 2021, close to 2,400 scholarships will be available in high-demand areas with workforce shortages, thanks to the appropriation approved by the Minnesota Legislature and Governor Walz.
With the new Workforce Development Scholarship funding, SCTCC received an additional 18 scholarships to award to students starting qualifying programs this fall at SCTCC. The list of scholarship-eligible programs at SCTCC that lead to high-demand careers has expanded to include: Auto Body Collision Technology, Automotive Service Technician, CNC and Advanced Machining, Computer-Aided Mechanical Design, Computer Programming, Cyber Security, Education, Health Information Technology, Medical Coding, Medium/Heavy Truck Technician, Network Administration, and Welding. Scholarship application deadline is July 26.
“This helps us in two ways,” said the Chancellor. “It creates enhanced access in the fields where workforce shortages are more severe. It also attracts students for whom college is otherwise not a possibility. Many students who come to us come from economically fragile backgrounds. We are able to grow the talent Minnesota needs and meet the workforce shortage.”
His stop at SCTCC was boosted by the presence of one of the scholarship recipients, Willow Schuller, a self-proclaimed girly-girl who will be starting in the Welding program this fall. Schuller was a PSEO student last year who wanted a hands-on class and decided to try out welding.
“I was not expecting to like welding,” she said, “but after the first class I really got the hang of it. After helping out at EPIC, I told my mom ‘I just did that for 8 hours and I really enjoyed it,’ and I considered actually going for welding.” She changed her major from nursing to Welding, and at the encouragement from an instructor, applied for the Workforce Development Scholarship.
Thanks to that scholarship, Schuller will have half her tuition covered. On top of that, she already has a job lined up and will start just a couple weeks before fall semester. She’ll be working part-time at DCI while taking Welding classes full-time, a prime example of the partnerships that industry and education need to forge.
“We are using business and industry as partners in education,” the Chancellor told the group of media, legislators, industry partners, and representatives from SCTCC and St. Cloud State University. “Getting hands-on experience in the workforce and creating partnerships is important – it creates a unified, cohesive dialog.”
Four partner industries contributed funds to supplement SCTCC's scholarships: C4 Welding, Park Industries, Rotochopper, and Talon Innovations. In addition to industry partners, Chancellor Malhotra and SCTCC President Annesa Cheek both emphasized the relationships with K-12.
“This notion of meeting people where they are has got to be real for us,” President Cheek stressed. “It’s not just important to be in partnership with K-12, but to be in those schools and at their events: meeting students where they are – in an environment that’s much more comfortable and familiar.”
The Minnesota State system is the most diverse higher education option in the state. With 244,000 students, about 65,000 come from communities of color or native origin, and 80,000 are from low-income families. The Workforce Development Scholarship enhances access for students that Minnesota State already serves. By leveraging additional resources, the system hopes to make further strategic investments in resources for students.
“Our colleges represent doors of open opportunity, and we want to make sure people realize college is a possibility for anyone out there who has dreams and aspirations to pursue those dreams and aspirations,” Chancellor Malhotra explained. “That’s why I call our colleges and universities Dream Factories.”
Pursuing her dreams and aspirations is just what Schuller did.
“After I signed up for my class, I thought, ‘What did I do?’ I never would have guessed that I wanted to spend my time in a welding shop,” she said, after talking about her favorite color (pink), her passion for ballet, and the Barbie bumper sticker on her car.
“I didn’t know I would feel so empowered by it. It makes you feel good when you find something that you’re good at.”
Watch the full interview with Willow. 4 mins 45 secs