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Trade workers are in high demand, especially in our region, where the largest employers rely on trade specialists for their workforce. The Community Foundation for the Alleghenies is meeting this growing need, partnering with our donors to create funding for those who pursue nontraditional education. These opportunities lead to well-paying, fulfilling jobs, stabilizing families, and bolstering the local economy.

Take a look at this Letter the to Editor on the subject, published in the Daily American. It was written by Somerset Endowments Director Pamela Tokar-Ickes:

Local Trade Schools Rich with Opportunity

The strains of Pomp and Circumstance are receding into memory as recent high school graduates begin to head off for their respective colleges, technical schools, and universities. The College Board estimates the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2017-2018 school year at $34,740 at private colleges and nearly $10,000 for state residents at public colleges – double that rate for students attending public schools that are out-of-state. Add housing and incidentals, and educational costs are not for the faint of heart.

But in a global economy of rapid technological change that constantly shifts the demands of the workplace for an aging and diverse population, “traditional” students are no longer the norm. By some accounts, 73% of all post-secondary students are “nontraditional”– students who, for a host of reasons, do not attend post-secondary schools right out of high school. Some are single parents or have other dependents; some are employed full-time. Some can only attend school or training programs on a part-time basis or have had to delay the start of their education for several years after high school. Most are over the age of 24; some are forced to retrain for other professions because of workforce changes or because they are seeking new professional challenges. For these individuals, juggling parenthood, housing, and other responsibilities, the financial challenges of paying for an education may seem insurmountable. But maintaining an educated and trained workforce is vital for the communities in which these students will continue to work and live.

The Community Foundation for the Alleghenies can provide a pathway to help offset the cost of education for those seeking its benefit. In 2018, the CFA awarded more than half million dollars in education funding through more than 550 scholarships created by our donors. Most went to traditional students who headed from high schools to four-year programs. But there are growing opportunities for those who wish to pursue technical or trade programs and for nontraditional learners.

The need is growing, too. Somerset County is a community where good trade positions can still support a family. The largest industries in the county are healthcare, manufacturing, retail, and construction* – industries that draw from trade schools for their workforce. The CFA has worked with a number of donors this year to support men and women pursuing trade careers in our region, creating financial tools for all types of students. And perhaps more important, creating hope. You’ll get a sense of the breadth of those options if you visit our scholarship page.

Donors who wish to meet these changing educational and workforce needs can contact the CFA to help define new opportunities. Developing scholarships for nontraditional students can help retrain displaced workers or provide the additional funding for the purchase of necessary books and equipment that otherwise may not be provided. And that extra help may just encourage someone to take that step toward retraining or returning to school for a degree they otherwise may not pursue. That’s not only good for both traditional and nontraditional students – it’s a great investment in our region’s future.

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