Over the past few years, we’ve seen tremendous opportunity in manufacturing. In addition to providing high-paying jobs, Montana’s manufacturing sector has a worker shortage begging to be filled with skilled workers. While Montanans have the work ethic and desire to meet this need, the resources to do so are not as easy to come by. Susan and I saw a way we could help Montanans access the higher education they needed to enter into this workforce, so in the spring of 2015, our foundation created the Gianforte Manufacturing Scholarships.

These scholarships assist lower-income students and veterans pursuing manufacturing or industrial education at a two-year college in Montana. But the real story here is not the scholarships. Rather, it’s the recipients and the companies who have benefitted from these newly-trained workers. Two years after the introduction of these scholarships, we’ve heard some inspiring stories.

There’s the single mom who is achieving her dream of providing a better life for her son; the high school graduate who excelled at hands-on work but never took to the typical academia of a four-year college; the son who wants to follow in his father’s footsteps of being a welder; and the worker laid off from the oil fields who is seeking out a new path.

To date, 699 manufacturing scholarships have been given to over 560 individual recipients. We’ve added on to our original two-year commitment with another commitment for 2017. Our hope is that even more people will be able to access these scholarships, and the life-changing opportunities that come from being able to pursue a dream that seemed out of reach.