As Minnesota faces a significant skilled workforce shortage of workforce, hundreds of college-bound students across the state will now have the opportunity to be awarded scholarships to help launch a career in a high-demand occupation.

The scholarships, worth $2,500 each, were made possible by a $7 million appropriation from the Minnesota Legislature after a successful pilot program stemming from the 2017 legislative session that initially awarded $1 million in scholarships for the 2018-2019 academic year. With the success of the pilot program, the 2019 Legislature and the Governor approved an expansion to $2 million for 2020 and $6 million for 2021. The number of scholarships available went from 400 in 2019 to approximately 668 in 2020 and approximately 2,400 for 2021. Every college in the Minnesota State system will have at least 25 of these scholarships available this fall semester. The Northeast Higher Education District, which includes Itasca Community College (ICC), Hibbing Community College, Mesabi Range College, Vermillion Community College, and Rainy River Community College, has 28 scholarships available.

The scholarships were made available for students entering associate degree, diploma or certificate programs within advanced manufacturing, agriculture, health care services, information technology, early childhood education and transportation at any of the 30 state colleges of Minnesota State.

“As I have traveled around the state, a theme that I consistently hear from employers is that Minnesota is facing a critical shortage of workers with skills needed for high-demand occupations,” said Dvinder Malhotra, Minnesota State Chancellor who was in Grand Rapids Tuesday to speak about the expansion of the program. “Workforce Development Scholarships have proven to be an effective tool for attracting students into these fields and helping them find a path towards a satisfying and well-paying career. We are grateful to the Legislature and the Governor for this opportunity, and we look forward to awarding these scholarships to help meet Minnesota’s workforce needs.”

“I truly hope this will encourage someone to think about getting a degree,” added ICC Provost Bart Johnson who sees this as an opportunity to fulfill local employers’ needs, pay for nearly 50% of a student’s tuition and attract people to fields that will allow them to work and live in this area.

“This is a great opportunity that the state is investing in,” said Johnson. “We frequently hear from area employers about the needs.”

“Students will be able to get two-years of college education with very little tuition costs and be debt-free and ready for work,” said Malhotra who has heard of several students who have been offered jobs even before graduation. “Many of our students come from low income families and $1,000 can make or break their decision to attend college. This is added incentive for going to college and meeting workforce shortages at the same time.”

Many of the colleges in the system have also raised additional funds from private sources to supplement the funds provided by the Legislature. For example, the Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association donated $30,000 to support students in the manufacturing industry. At ICC, Johnson said they have a Health Care Advisory Council which partners with local health care facilities about needs. ICC also partners with Itasca Area Schools Collaborative (IASC) regarding early childhood needs.

The scholarships also encourage student success, according ty Joy Bodin, vice president of Academic and Student Affairs at Central Lakes College.

“These scholarships require students to be enrolled for at least nine credits per semester,” said Bodin. “This makes it more likely that they will successfully complete their program compared to students who take only one or two courses.”

Students who were awarded a scholarship for fall 2018 semester are eligible to apply again if they have completed two academic terms with a minimum of nine credits each and have maintained a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher. Dozens of scholarships are still available for fall 2-19. Those interested in applying for a Workforce Development Scholarship, should contact the school’s Enrollment Services Office. At ICC, contact Director of Enrollment Bill Marshall at 218-322-2340 or


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