Keeping it local Free money for education and training

Do you need a job or change in job direction? Do you need to hire technically qualified employees? Do you want a raise but need some extra credentials to get one? Do you worry about the economic survival of our small towns and communities? If so, then read this article.

Many people do not realize there is money to support various kinds of education and training and think that scholarships are only for people who want to attend college. The Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation has money for your next phase of life in the form of scholarships and workforce education awards.

“Sometimes it is hard to give away money,” says Sarah Copeland, Director of Grants and Programs at the Community Foundation. “In many cases, this is because people just don’t know what is available (and by the way, there is a LOT available!), or are deterred by the word “scholarship” and think scholarships are only for college-bound students.” Sarah goes on to add that this is definitely not the case. “Brianna Spry and I visit all the area schools, and if we say the word scholarship, many students automatically tune out. But, if we say we have money for people who want to be electricians, we immediately have their attention. I am here to tell you that everyone is worthy of a scholarship or education award. We care about all youth in our community. You have value, and we want to help you succeed.”

We need electricians. We need men and women to cut our hair, build our houses, fix our roads and plumbing, and take care of us when we are sick. This all seems very simple, and makes sense, but think about it. From where is our community workforce going to come in the next two years, 10 years, or 20 years? This is a significant issue given that Itasca County has a higher than average population of people over 65, and that percentage is increasing every year.

According to the US Census Bureau (Itasca County 2018) 22.7% of us are over 65 years old and 20.9% are under 18 years old. “Think about that,” says Copeland. “Basically, that leaves under 60% - or half the residents of Itasca County that are working age. What happens when we send our kids away to college? How many of them are coming back any time soon? My kids aren’t going to live and raise my grandchildren here if they don’t have good jobs.”

So, what does all this mean? It means we need to support the people who want to live here, stay here and work here. We need to take care of our current and future workforce. There are three ways to support a healthy current and future local workforce:

  • Provide jobs.

  • Provide money for education and training to get, keep and advance in local jobs.

  • Encourage people to apply for free money for education and training.

PHOTO: Payton Jochum, Greenway Graduate, recipient of 2018 Greater Itasca WORKFORCE READY ($5,000) and Greenway Spanish ($500).

The Greater Itasca WORKFORCE READY Education Awards were started by Jerry and Cathie (Saxhaug) Anderson in 2015 and have provided almost $400,000 in local workforce education and training awards (free money you do not have to pay back) for people who want to live here, work here, and stay here. WORKFORCE READY is a strong local partnership with the Grand Itasca Foundation, Northern Minnesota Builders’ Association, MDI, Industrial Lubricant, NIE (Northern Industrial Erectors), the Community Foundation and now NEMOJT (Northeastern MN Office of Job Training). These educational awards are specifically designed for people who have two years or less remaining in their education or training. Local workforce needs, such as medical, building trades, teachers, mechanics, and other fields of study may take priority in the selection process.

Other educational awards at the Community Foundation are targeted to students attending vocational or technical training. Both traditional and nontraditional students are eligible. In all cases, these awards provide “free money” that does not need to be paid back. The best way to find out what is available is to visit the Community Foundation’s website, explore the scholarship page, and then complete an application.

The application deadline for free money is fast approaching! It’s easy to apply online at or stop by our office and we will help you. Applications need to be completed by March 15th!

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350 NW 1st Ave, Suite E  | Grand Rapids, MN 55744  |  218-999-9100

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