Building a better workforce sometimes takes money.
A fundraising campaign to support a scholarship program for area students has been launched by El Paso County, Pikes Peak Community College and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. The program aims to help students accomplish their educational goals and keep them employed in the area after they graduate.
"Cultivate - The Campaign for a World-Class Workforce" aims to raise $668,000 in donations from area residents, organizations and businesses by Dec. 31. That money would be paired with a matching grant from the state's Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative, with a goal of giving about 200 students access to $1.3 million in scholarships.
If public contributions fall short of the $668,000 year-end goal, the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative will match whatever amount is raised, said Melinda Hagemann, UCCS' development director.
Under the program, scholarships will be awarded based on students' financial need, starting in fall 2017. PPCC scholarships will run for two years per student, while UCCS scholarships will run for four years.
Area officials hope the campaign will provide more financial aid to the area's 6,700 new high school graduates. In turn, officials hope to retain many of those college graduates and place them in some of the estimated 14,000 unfilled jobs in El Paso County.
"One of our biggest priorities is keeping our talented pool here in El Paso County and then also providing access for those students who may not think they could even have any opportunity to pursue a degree of higher education," Hagemann said.
State lawmakers created the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative in 2014 to generate more scholarship dollars for students and to increase the pool of workforce-ready graduates across Colorado, according to the program's Facebook page.
The program began with $7 million in start-up funds, which are intended to encourage private and nonprofit contributions for scholarships.
Eligible counties, higher education institutions and community workforce programs were encouraged to apply for grants from the Scholarship Initiative program. In January, the program awarded a grant to PPCC and UCCS, with the money being passed through El Paso County.
On Monday, PPCC, UCCS and the county kicked off their public fundraising portion of the scholarship program.
In a news release, UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak said the two schools "provide a pathway to hundreds of careers in nursing, information technology, business, manufacturing and more."
PPCC President Lance Bolton said the schools cultivate "a pipeline of high-quality employees for the region."
As a result, local contributions to the scholarship program would enhance opportunities for students, whose employment in the community would benefit the economy, they said.
To learn more about the scholarship programs and to donate, go to www.worldclassworkforce.net. For more information about applying for scholarships, go to www.ppcc.edu/scholarships and www.uccs.edu/scholarships.
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