With baby boomers preparing to retire from the ranks of the work force, a growing number of labor experts are concerned there will be a shortage of workers to replace them.

In an effort to alleviate the problem, facility maintenance supplier Grainger announced it will increase its technical education scholarships from the original nine community colleges to 35 across the country.

“The economic health of America depends on the availability of qualified, skilled workers,” said Grainger President and Chief Executive Officer James T. Ryan. “Grainger is proud to help students complete their technical education through our Tools for Tomorrow scholarship program.”

The expansion comes at the beginning of the third year of the Grainger Tools for Tomorrow scholarship program. The program provides funding for students at select community colleges throughout the nation to finish their second year of a technical career program such as HVAC, welding, electrical, plumbing or construction management. Upon graduation, the program recognizes their achievement with a Westward tool package to launch their careers.

“Students enrolled in technical career programs will help to meet a serious and growing skills gap in our country,” said American Association of Community Colleges President George R. Boggs. “By stepping up to support their efforts, Grainger is not only helping deserving students, but the company is also investing in our nation’s economic success.”

“I’ve always wanted to venture into the construction management field,” said Baltimore resident Cherylle Brown, who was one of nine scholarship recipients in the 2007 academic year. “A few of my professional goals are to start my own construction company, encourage other women to enter the construction management field, and help them develop the skills and business acumen needed to be successful in this industry. With this scholarship, Grainger has helped give me the opportunity to realize my goals.”

Cincinnati State Technical and Community College student Brandon Bogle also benefited from the program last year.

“After working a few years in other jobs, I decided that the best way to successfully support our four children was to go back to school and earn a degree,” Bogle said. “I’m grateful that Grainger’s generous contribution has helped to further my career in electrical engineering and computer technologies.”

Grainger and the American Association of Community Colleges continue to work together to promote the Grainger Tools for Tomorrow scholarship program at 35 selected AACC member colleges across the country. To date, Grainger has helped 16 students complete their technical education programs as part of this effort.