(Rochester, MN) Through new legislation passed earlier this year, Rochester Community and Technical College will be able to award 25 $2,500 Workforce Development Scholarships (WDS) beginning this fall. These scholarships will help RCTC students launch a career in a high-demand occupation in sectors including advanced manufacturing, agriculture, health care services, information technology, early childhood education, and transportation. The scholarships are available to new and returning students enrolled in associate degree, diploma, or certificate programs in high-demand sectors of Minnesota’s economy. The scholarships will cover approximately half the cost of tuition and fees for the required credits.

RCTC President Jeffery Boyd states, “We are excited to share the news and promote the expanded workforce development scholarship opportunities available to our students. Last year RCTC awarded fourteen Workforce Development Scholarships; and with additional funding from the 2019 Legislative Session, RCTC will be able to award 25 scholarships for each of the next two years. Through these scholarships, many of our students have reduced financial burdens, which allows students more time to focus on their studies and complete their educational goals.”

The Workforce Development Scholarships were made possible by a $7 million appropriation from the Minnesota Legislature following a successful pilot program stemming from the 2017 legislative session. The pilot program initially awarded $1 million in scholarships in the 2018-2019 academic year. The legislation that came out of the 2019 legislative session substantially expands the pilot program by making $2 million available for FY2020 and a total of $6 million for FY2021. The legislation also expanded the program to include two additional programs of study: early childhood education and transportation. The seven Minnesota State universities will also be eligible to award scholarships for FY2021 to students who received scholarships from a Minnesota State college and transfer into a corresponding bachelor’s program.

Devinder Malhotra, Chancellor of Minnesota State, was at RCTC on Thursday to share the news with the Rochester community. “As I have traveled around the state, a theme that I consistently hear from employers is that Minnesota is facing a critical shortage of workers with the skills needed for high-demand occupations,” stated Chancellor Malhotra. “Workforce Development Scholarships have proven to be an effective tool for attracting students into these fields and helping them find a path toward a satisfying and well-paying career. We are grateful to the Legislature and the Governor for this opportunity, and we look forward to awarding these scholarships to help meet Minnesota’s workforce needs.”

Workforce Development scholarships are currently available for Fall 2019. RCTC students who were awarded a scholarship for Fall 2018 semester are also eligible to apply again if they have completed two academic terms with a minimum of nine credits each and have maintained a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher. Students wishing to apply can do so online at rctc.edu/wds.  The application window opens Friday, July 12, and closes Monday, August 5 at 11:59 p.m.  Anyone with questions about these scholarships should contact the RCTC Financial Aid office at (507) 285-7271.



Minnesota State includes 30 community and technical colleges and seven state universities serving approximately 375,000 students. It is the third-largest system of two-year colleges and four-year universities in the United States.


RCTC is a member of the Minnesota State system.

WDI and Partners: Focus on Work-Based Learning Opportunities

Our methodical approach to help employers find ways to attract and retain more workers.

  1. Workforce Development, Inc., the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, and Southeast Service Cooperative have partnered in creating a shared liaison position to help businesses connect with work-based learning opportunities and address talent pipeline shortages.  Lori Wright serves as a full-time liaison to guide and enhance the work-based learning work being done for both youth and adults throughout Southeast Minnesota.  Her work is focused on evaluating the specific workforce needs of regional businesses, connecting those businesses to local resources, especially work-based learning opportunities, and sharing the identified needs with the partners to develop a methodical approach to attract and retain more workers. Lori comes to us with proven project management experience, a can-do attitude, and a focus on results. 

What have we learned so far? A methodical approach is crucial to creating lasting impact. Southeast Minnesota is currently experiencing a large number of unengaged community citizens, under-skilled workers, baby boomers retiring, fewer young people available to replace retirees, and youth that are not aware of well-paying careers that exist in their own communities and not engaging in the workforce. In addition, there are organizations independently approaching this issue in silos due to limited regional efficiencies, processes, and resources.

Many of the great careers that are key to the economic vitality of Southeast Minnesota are in agribusiness, healthcare, information technology, and manufacturing.  According to DEED’s Occupations in Demand tool, there are over 275 occupations showing relatively high demand in Southeast Minnesota, with training and education requirements ranging from short-term on-the-job training to postsecondary education to advanced degrees.

Some area businesses have already become creative in recruiting and retaining efforts. New approaches include paying more attention to the employees they already have, increasing starting pay, allowing flexible work schedules and realizing younger employees put a high value on working for companies that create a meaningful and inclusive work environments.  Many area businesses are also exploring work-based learning opportunities in partnership with local high schools and colleges.  Lori’s role in connecting businesses with education partners to provide work-based learning opportunities and help get young people into demand occupations is invaluable. 

Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, Southeast Service Cooperative, and Workforce Development, Inc.’s deliberate approach, working in conjunction with K-12 school districts, business and industry, collaborative groups, local colleges and universities, and local government, should help Southeast Minnesota stand out among other communities that are facing the same talent shortages.

To learn more about work-based learning opportunities and innovations, contact Lori Wright at LoriWright@workforcedevelopmentinc.org.