The Manufacturers Association of Maine and the Maine Blue Collar Scholarship Foundation are doubling the amount of scholarships available to people who hope to enter the trades in Maine.
The groups aim to provide about $100,000 to students interested in pursuing trades such as automotive work, plumbing or mechanized logging.
18-year old Tori Lambert is a welder and body shop assistant at Hews Truck Bodies and Equipment. She says a scholarship she won helped her buy the tools needed to do her job and further her career.
"Buying tools is a very big thing,” Lambert says. “You know a drill can cost $500, and, as someone coming straight out of high-schoo,l that's a big bill. So I really just think it's giving kids a head start in their careers."
Scholarship funders says the goal is not just to increase the number of skilled tradespeople in the state but to reinvigorate trade industries with young talent like Lambert. Blue Collar Scholarship founder Shawn Moody says even receiving a scholarship can help inspire students within their chosen field.
"There's nothing more rewarding than giving that scholarship to an unsuspecting student,” Moody says. “You know it's not the valedictorian or the salutatorian, it's somebody going into welding, or automotive or the electrical field. And their peers just ignite, they're like 'Oh my god!’ you know?"
Moody says supporting education for students entering the trades could protect them the potential loss of jobs to automation in the future.
Funders say approximately 400 students have benefited from the scholarship program since it began in 2014.