Since 2011 the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS) has been helping to develop homegrown talent and support the local tech pipeline by supporting low- and middle-income students pursuing college degrees in high-demand STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)and healthcare fields. Through the WSOS, college financial aid is expanded to a greater group of young people beyond the current state need grant which only reaches families with 70% of the median family income.

To date, the WSOS has raised over $82 million from the private sector from major employers like Microsoft and Boeing, as well as generous donors including Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie, and Seattle angel investor Gary Rubens. Funds raised are matched by the State under the program’s legislation, doubling funds and allowing WSOS to meet their goal of supporting almost 14,000 students over 10 years.

In addition to the scholarship, the program offers professional development opportunities to help students sharpen their skills and gain valuable industry knowledge. Starting this fall, WSOS will partner with Coding Dojo to send a few lucky WSOS Scholars through Coding Dojo to get hands-on training to complement their STEM degree and help both their resume and their skills shine.

Meeting Employer Demands

It’s important that education doesn’t stop in the classroom, whether it’s through self-learning, internships or alternative hands-on learning programs.

Earlier this year, CareerBuilder released a survey showing that 21% of employers believe academic institutions are failing to adequately prepare students for work. Almost half of that group said the problem is due to a lack of “real-world learning” on college campuses.

CareerBuilder also found that, “Job seekers with a good mix of both technical and soft skills will have the best prospects right out of college.”

The WSOS scholars selected for the Coding Dojo pilot program will have a unique opportunity to do just that, by combining theoretical learning from their course experience with hands-on web development experience from Coding Dojo, to ensure they are job-ready — and top candidates — upon graduation.

“The classes are hard but the environment and people are awesome,” said WSOS recipient and Coding Dojo student Ilham. “I’m definitely learning a lot about the material we are covering and about myself. I’m amazed at how much I learned in the small time I have been at Coding Dojo.”

The 2016-2017 application for a WSOS scholarship will be available Jan. 4, 2016. Information including deadlines and eligibility are currently being updated on the WSOS website if you are interested in applying for a scholarship!