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Workforce Development | 32 Credit Hours, Tuition Free

Scholarships available in high-wage, high-demand fields, apply now

By Debra Gibson

Advanced manufacturing technicians are in high demand in Kentucky industry. Their average starting salary is $60,000.
Advanced manufacturing technicians are in high demand in Kentucky industry. Their average starting salary is $60,000.

Healthcare, advanced manufacturing, transportation/logistics, business services/information technology, and construction trades are five of the highest paying fields today – yet they are the fields with the most job openings.

The Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship (WRKS) Program was developed to address this need. The program provides free tuition for programs in these fields, which are deemed high-wage, high-demand. Recipients can take up to 32 credit hours tuition-free. The scholarships are available at any of the state’s four-year public universities, schools in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, or accredited colleges in Kentucky.

“All of these jobs require more than a high school degree,” said Jay Box, KCTCS president. “Most require at least a one-year certificate, and some require all the way up to an associate degree. The degree that probably gets the most attention is that of an advanced manufacturing technician. The average starting salary is $60,000 a year.

“These scholarships are designed to attract adults – working adults – back into these sectors with the most job openings,” said Box. We have programs where you can earn a certificate in as few as four months.”

The scholarships also aim to help employers, according to Box.

“If employers have employees who are undereducated for the jobs that the company needs, this scholarship can get workers re-directed to a higher level,” he said. “This scholarship can pay up to 32 hours.”

Box said there are different employer needs in different parts of the state.

“In the eastern part of state, information technology fields are booming,” Box noted. “In Northern Kentucky, it is manufacturing. In the western part of the state, transportation and logistics are particularly needed. Anywhere there is a boom in construction – typically the more urban areas – there are needs in the construction trades. Healthcare workers are needed across the board.”

There are two important caveats for employers and employees alike.

First, while there are no income or age limits to qualify, prospective students must first apply for federal financial aid before they are eligible to apply for the WRKS. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form is available at fafsa.gov, and the WRKS application can be found at kheaa.com.

Secondly, there are state and federal deadlines for submitting an FAFSA application. Check the left side of the homepage under “deadlines” to determine which apply since federal and state deadlines are different and deadlines at the various colleges can also be different. However, in general, FAFSA funds are available in October and applications must be submitted by November to be eligible for the semester beginning in January of 2018.

Anyone who has not yet earned a college degree of any type is eligible. Applicants must have a high school diploma or high school equivalency certificate.

Debra Gibson is a correspondent for The Lane Report. She can be reached at [email protected].