August 01, 2018

On July 9, the Century College Foundation received a $5,000 dollar grant from the Xcel Energy Foundation, providing five students with scholarships of $1,000 each.

Students in the Solar and Renewable Energy program, as well as the HVAC and Facility Maintenance Engineering program will be able to receive the scholarships.

The grant represents one step in a broader effort by Xcel Energy and Century College to keep more students in college and ultimately help students develop the skills they need to work in the energy industry and other fields.  

The energy industry is one of many industries facing a significant workforce skills gap. The skills gap is a shortage of about three million qualified job candidates across the United States in many industries, which costs the country upwards of $2.3 trillion annually in lost revenue.

Helping Students Helps Everyone

It should come as no surprise that the source of the skills gap, and the solution, starts with college education. If students don’t learn the skills training they need in college, they won’t be prepared to enter the workforce.

The problem stems in large part from the difficulty college students across the country are having in completing degrees; in fact, nearly half of all students end up dropping out of college.

Often, this is due to financial circumstances rather than academic performance. A large number of students are forced to drop out due to unexpected minor costs, often less than $1,000 dollars.

“We are very grateful for Xcel Energy’s generous investment in Century College,” said Century College Foundation Director Jill Greenhalgh. “These scholarships could transform the lives of five students.”

Addressing the Energy Industry Skills Gap

One focus of the Xcel Energy Foundation is education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Xcel Energy, in partnership with Century College, hopes to address the skills gap in the energy industry by supporting students in these fields.

“Companies are really struggling to find people to fill STEM jobs,” said Elisa Rasmussen, representative for the Xcel Energy Foundation. “From a workforce development perspective, it’s important for us to use these scholarships to help students get on a path to those career fields.”

Engineering, Solar and Renewable Energy, and HVAC and Facility Maintenance Engineering programs were identified by Century College as specific STEM areas in need of scholarship support. Prior to this grant, the Solar and Renewable Energy program did not have a designated scholarship, while the HVAC and Facility Maintenance Engineering program had only one.

For Xcel Energy, contributing to these programs is not only a great way to support individual students, but a smart investment in the future.

“We learned that Century College has great programs, and we realized we needed to start supporting the efforts here,” said Rasmussen.

Why Xcel Energy Chose Century College

Xcel Energy chose to provide this grant to Century College for a number of reasons. But what initially piqued Xcel Energy’s interest was Century College’s military veteran population, which is one of the largest among colleges in Minnesota.

“Xcel Energy is focused on hiring veterans, and it’s important for us to recognize the service members who do so much for our country,” said Rasmussen. “We really admire the support Century College provides for student veterans.”

In particular, Rasmussen noted Century College’s “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Ceremony,” in which Century College honors businesses that support military veterans.

After taking a tour of Century College, Rasmussen was also impressed by both the diversity of Century College and the technology.

“Diversity is important to the college, and it’s important to us. It was great to see that reflected in your instructors,” said Rasmussen. “And the technology Century College has is incredible. The Fab Lab is really amazing.

The most important reason Xcel Energy chose to donate to Century College, however, was the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of students.

“Being able to meet the students that have been affected by our scholarships is one of the greatest privileges I have as a representative of the Xcel Energy Foundation,” said Rasmussen.