By Keith Knepp
WARSAW — When you think about soon-to-be high school graduates applying for scholarships, it’s easy to assume those financial awards are given to students who plan to study science, music, history, art or any number of subjects associated with colleges and universities across the country. However, it is often overlooked that scholarships also are available to students who intend to pursue a career in skilled trades, such as auto mechanics plumbing, carpentry, construction, electrical or even cyber security, just to name a few examples.
The Kosciusko County Community Foundation is looking to bridge the financial gap many students face when considering the prospect of paying for an education in their field of interest. In fact, according to KCCF CEO Stephanie Overbey, scholarships are not only available to high school students, but also to adults of all ages who are interested in pursuing skilled trades training, or a even a complete career change. Scholarships are set aside just for those students who want to pursue a license, certificate or associates degree in a trade program.
While the application deadline has passed for high school seniors of the class of 2022, adults have a year-round opportunity to apply for, and most likely receive, scholarships to enhance their education and allow them better job opportunities. For next year’s graduating seniors, once the scholarship applications reopen, they will have until mid-March to put in their bids for assistance.
Overbey said the application process for both students and adults is quite simple. Interested applicants begin by answering a series of questions regarding their interests and career aspirations. The intuitive system will then route the application to the appropriate scholarships that pertain to their interests.
“There are fewer students going into trades,” noted Overbey. “We want people to know that they have access to scholarships through KCCF. Professional services can be hard to come by these days. People are willing to pay for good service. It’s supply and demand. You can make a good living by serving in a trade.”
Wawasee High School building trades teacher Aaron McKinley also shared his thoughts.
“Many students are turning away from traditional college and its high tuition that leads to large student loan debt,” he said. “They are becoming more interested in working in a skilled trade where they can pursue a decent career without the debt of a college degree. Today, there is a great need for trades people. The scholarships for skilled trades are needed more than ever for students to attend vocational and trades schools to advance their knowledge and abilities in the skilled trades industry.”
Overbey added that a career in skilled trades should not be considered a “plan B.”
“It’s a worthwhile endeavor,” she said. “We can help if finances are a barrier to get licensed training. Come see us. Many students are beginning their training in high school and we can help them after they graduate. Adults who want a new career path, even if they are in their 40s or 50s, we can help with scholarships.
“Once applicants, whether students or adults, create a profile, the system matches them with scholarship opportunities. It is very streamlined. There are more than 100 scholarship funds offered by the Foundation, which includes traditional college scholarships and the trades.”
Sandy Benedict, assistant director of the Whitko Career Academy, added this: “The WCA fully supports the skilled trades programs through offering the construction, advanced manufacturing/precision machining and welding trades programs to all interested Whitko students through grades 9-12.
“Awareness of the opportunities in these industries begins at the early middle school ages and by participating in our programs as a high schooler. Offering scholarships for the skills trades students is an integral part of helping these students pursue the training and education needed to succeed in these high demand areas after graduation.
“With the financial support from the scholarships, students are able to concentrate on finishing their training and education at a faster rate and make it more affordable for the student to continue their education.”
Overbay said that $38,250 in scholarships were awarded to adults for skilled trades training in 2021. She added that not every applicant is eligible for all of the scholarships. Additionally, most of the available scholarships are only available to Kosciusko County residents. Many other counties have similar programs for their residents.
“We are grateful for the Kosciusko County Community Foundation’s financial support of students interested in pursuing skilled trades immediately out of high school,” noted Jill Jackson, assistant director of the Warsaw Area Career Center. “Our passion at the Career Center is to meet the career goals of all students and help fill industry needs within our local community including in the skilled trades field. These scholarships are going to do just that and support our students seeking out high skilled/high paid careers.”
For further information, contact KCCF at (54) 267-1901, or stop by 102 E. Market St., Warsaw. You also can visit www.kcfoundation.org/scholarships to learn more.