ST. CLOUD -- Hundreds of students preparing for college across Minnesota this fall now have an opportunity to be awarded a workforce development scholarship to begin a career in a high-demand job.

The scholarships were made possible by an additional $7-million approved by the state legislature this past session, after a successful $1-million pilot program back in 2017.

Over the next two years the funding will provide scholarships across the state to about 668 students this year and 2,400 students next year.

Willow Schuller is a 2019 graduate of Tech High School and will attend St. Cloud Technical and Community College this fall. She says she originally wanted to go into nursing, but found her true passion by taking a random welding class.

I never would have known if I didn't sign up for Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) and randomly sign up for a welding class that I would have loved it. It's a lot more exciting to think how passionate I am about it and doing it for a career.

Scholarship eligible programs include careers in advance manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare and information technology.

The success of the pilot program has also generated positive support from employers who are providing additional funding for scholarships for students entering skilled programs at Minnesota State colleges.

Schuller says she hasn't even started her college career and already has a job in her field.

I start my job a couple weeks before I even start school. It's a very good job and I think it's a great opportunity for me to be able to be welding and I think it will make school that much easier.

The funding gives St. Cloud Technical and Community College 18 new $2,500 scholarships for the fall semester.

There are still several scholarships available throughout 26 Minnesota State colleges, including SCTCC.  The application deadline to apply for a workforce development scholarship is July 26.

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