Pikes Peak Community College, UCCS and El Paso County are working together on a fundraising project to secure more than $1.3 million in scholarships for local students. Local contributions will be matched — up to $668,000 — through a grant from the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative to provide new scholarships for students in El Paso County.

“Right now, 50 percent of the jobs need skilled labor,” said Melinda Hagemann, director of development at UCCS. “And there is an 8 percent gap. In 2020, it’s projected that 74 percent of jobs will need education beyond high school — and if there’s already a gap, we are concerned what that will look like in the next several years.”

The partners launched a fundraising campaign May 9 at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum.

The Colorado legislature approved $34 million for COSI in 2014, based on studies that showed a workforce skills gap, she said.

“They looked at where the workforce was headed and what the labor market looked like, and they created the program to address the gaps.” Hagemann said.

When the fundraising campaign reaches the match, students will have access to more than $1.3 million in scholarships designed to strengthen the local workforce. The campaign, known as “Cultivate — The Campaign for a World-Class Workforce,” has until Dec. 31 to raise the matching funds.

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More than 200 students will benefit from the award. PPCC scholarships will be for two years for each student and UCCS scholarships for four years. Scholarships will be awarded to students based on financial need, beginning in fall 2017.

“It’s a flexible program,” Hagemann said. “But we want to supplement the workforce ares that are in high demand in our region — cybersecurity, finance, manufacturing, health care, aerospace. And those are programs with high student populations at PPCC and UCCS.”

Hagemann said the groups were not limiting their fundraising outreach.

“This is for anyone interested in the future of the community,” she said. “We welcome gifts from all areas and all industries. This is about the future of our local economy.”

Details about applying for scholarships are available at ppcc.edu/scholarships and uccs.edu/scholarships.