By Jennifer Ferrero, APR

Anyone who has been involved with fundraising knows that it may be prudent to start small in the first year to see how things go. The Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce (SVCC) did just that with their scholarship foundation. In order to identify where the greatest workforce development need was in the community, they started with their key initiatives.

Spokane Valley Chamber Big 5 Initiatives:

  • Greater Goods
  • Greater Learning
  • Greater Vision
  • Greater Outdoors
  • Greater Cures

They identified that through Greater Goods and Greater Learning, they wanted to establish a scholarship fund for those interested in career and technical education programs at the local community college.

Their first-year fundraising goal was $4,500, which would support Spokane Community College student scholarships.

The business community had a different idea! Many local manufacturing companies, suppliers, banks, restaurants, and construction companies pulled together to raise almost 10-times the expected amount.

Great things happen with good intentions!

Yes, that’s right, they raised close to $45,000 for the first-year scholarships (to be awarded in $1,500 increments).

Katherine Morgan, CEO, commented on why so many businesses jumped into this program, “Why are CTE careers important? Many members are industry leaders within this area; they shared the great need in our community and in their business to retain great talent here; to seek out and explore these trades.”

She has heard from many member businesses that there is a shortage in talent and that businesses are facing recruiting challenges, “We want to be proactive in our efforts in our community.”

The Chair of the SVCC Foundation, Neil Muller, helps administer the fund and noted that these scholarships can impact many trade-based careers:

  • Electricians,
  • manufacturing,
  • skilled craftsman,
  • construction workforce,
  • apprenticeship,
  • transportation and distribution,
  • aerospace and CNC machining,
  • welding,
  • and mechanics.

These types of hands-on trade-based careers still carry a stigma for parents per Muller. He said that for many students they aren’t exposed to career and technical training, but once the financial barriers are removed, he believes there will be more opportunity.

“We need to change our perspective of how we educate students and move them through the system,” Muller said.

To move that needle, the SVCC Foundation has partnered with the school districts and the Greater Spokane Valley CTE Advisory Council to connect with the counselors in the schools. Many schools now offer career-based training to counselors regarding programs found at our community and technical colleges.

If there’s any question that businesses in eastern Washington are interested in fostering local talent, just ask Morgan, “There is so much enthusiasm from the community to get behind these efforts. There’s a lot of appreciation from partners as they see students going down this path. We had hoped in the first year to be at $4,500 in scholarships, and we are at $45,000. It illuminates for us the great need that is there.”

The scholarship fund is maintained at Community Colleges of Spokane. Scholarship applications were being accepted at the time of this writing for fall 2017.

For more information: http://spokanevalleychamber.org/about/spokane-valley-chamber-foundation/

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