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Free College Program Will Help Fill Workforce Needs

June 21, 2018 07:20 PM

(ABC 6 News)-- It's a program that's going to have an immediate impact on high school graduates and a long-term impact on the job market and the economy.

It's called the Assurance Scholarship program. The Hormel Foundation will make two years at Riverland community college tuition-free for graduates of Austin public schools and Pacelli Catholic schools who meet educational and community service requirements.

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"There is such a demand is not just this region but the state of Minnesota for nurses, medical assisting, radiography,” said Laura Beasley, nursing program director at Riverland.

“There's a rural health care issue as far as having qualified employees," Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Mark Ciota added. “But we find the Riverland students are eager to learn and are good learners and are excellent employees."

And the career and technical training go beyond health care.

"Truck driving is a very hot career now. Even computer science technology, construction electrician, carpentry,” Riverland President Dr. Adenuga Atewologun said.

“Because of the technology and the things that are changing around us, there's a huge opportunity for students to be able to get a degree in a trade,” Hormel Foundation Chair Gary Ray said.

And once the students are trained, there could be another ripple effect:

"These are also people who can start their own businesses, they can be entrepreneurs,” Dr. Adenuga Atewologun said.

Many of the career and technical courses at Riverland are two years or less.

"They could become licensed and be able to step into a job right after graduation making really some pretty good money without any financial debt," nursing director Laura Beasley told us.

The students in the class of 2019 will be the first new grads to qualify for the program

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Dan Conradt

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