House approves bill for vocational scholarships at rural community colleges

  • Wednesday, February 14, 2018 1:30am
  • Business

A proposed program that would provide grants for community college students to learn trades in high demand in rural areas has garnered bipartisan approval in the House of Representatives.

Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, prime sponsor of HB 2177, said the legislation is aimed at helping economies in timber and farm country.

“I have been leading the Rural Economic Development Team for the House, so it is very exciting to see our first priority bill pass this session,” Chapman said, following the bill’s 98-0 passage in the House on Feb. 8.

“We talk a lot about rural economy and creating jobs in rural Washington,” Chapman said at a public hearing last month. “It’s really become clear that there are good paying, family wage jobs that are available right now in rural Washington, but there are not trained workers to take those jobs.”

The bill was introduced for first reading in the Senate on Feb. 13, and was referred to Higher Education & Workforce Development for consideration.

All counties in the state would qualify except for King, Pierce, Snohomish, Kitsap, Whatcom, Thurston, Clark, Benton and Spokane counties.

Lisa Perry, representing Sierra Pacific Industries, a timber company in Skagit and Lewis counties, said at the bill’s hearing that at least one line in the company is not operating because of the lack of skilled workers.

She said schools don’t encourage students to study fields like electric engineering, mechanics, or other trade fields. This bill, she said, would allow local industries to work with community colleges in their area to identify industry needs.

“We need this visibility,” Perry said. “We are short on workers.”

The proposed grant would cover tuition and fees for up to 45 credits or one year of full-time study starting no later than the Autumn quarter of the 2019-20 academic year. To be eligible, you must be a resident of a rural county, enrolled in a community college program in a high demand field, have a family income that is less than 70 percent of the state median, and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or the Washington Application for State Financial Aid.

The State board of education has not yet identified specific fields that qualify as high demand areas, but must do so by January of 2019.

“We have a gap and this bill would provide the resources we need to fill that gap,” Erin Frasier, policy director for the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges said.

Representative Chapman pointed to the nursing, carpentry, and welding industries as examples of high demand fields.

Amy Anderson, government affairs director of the Association of Washington Businesses, said that there will be almost three-quarters of a million jobs opening in the state within the next five years and a majority of those jobs will require a post-secondary credential of some kind. She said while graduation rates rise, only about 31 percent of high school graduates obtain a post secondary credential or degree.

The Association of Washington Businesses toured 70 manufacturers in October, Anderson said. They found that every business expressed a need for a skilled workforce. Many were unable to expand or forced to shut down manufacturing lines due to the lack of a skilled workforce.

“The need is even more acute in our rural areas in the state,” Anderson said. “The benefit would far outweigh the expenditures to the state.”

According to the bill’s fiscal note, the program would cost $259,000 per year to implement the program. The state would also match any private donations made up to $50 million per year.

“Higher education is one of the best tools in our toolbox to revitalize our small towns and rural counties,” Chapman said. “When we traveled around the state listening to local folks and businesses, we heard again and again about filling the skills gap, so we can get people the education and skills they need for the high-skill jobs in the greatest demand.

More in Business

Labor market strengthens further in May

Washington state’s economy added 8,500 jobs in May and the state’s seasonally… Continue reading

The Co-op Farm & Garden store at 216 E. Washington St. added a Hallmark Gold Crown department where it will sell year-long greeting cards and seasonal cards along with gift wrap and a variety of gift items. Sequim Gazette photo by Erin Hawkins
Co-op adds Hallmark Gold Crown department to store

Hallmark Gold Crown Offering cards, gift wraps and gifts Ribbon cutting at… Continue reading

Business briefs — June 20, 2018

Funeral business adds pet services Harper-Ridgeview Funeral Chapel and Sequim Valley Chapel… Continue reading

What’s New at the Market: Nitro Coffee, locally-crafted beverages to sip

A new beverage is being served at the Sequim Farmers Market every… Continue reading

The House of Seven Brothers combines tradition with future vision

The House of Seven Brothers Family-friendly restaurant Hours: 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday… Continue reading

Business Briefs — June 6, 2018

Radio station hits the air Radio Pacific announced this week its KZQM… Continue reading

Kamama Flowers offers mixed bouquets and services

Kamama Flowers Organic flower farm, business and service Flower bar hours: 12-5… Continue reading

What’s New at the Market: The Morel Compass

What’s New at the Market When: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, June 2… Continue reading

Business briefs — May 30, 2018

Postcard party at Forage Gifts Forage Gifts & Northwest Treasures recently conducted… Continue reading

Most Read