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Heavy Metal: Legendary band Metallica awards third grant to GRCC to change lives through in-demand welding skills

July 23, 2021, GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A third grant from Metallica’s All Within My Hands will allow Grand Rapids Community College to help more non-traditional students gain in-demand welding skills leading to rewarding careers. 

GRCC is one of 23 colleges in the nation -- and the only one in Michigan -- to have received the grants, which are funded by the legendary band in partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges.

The Metallica Scholars program was designed to support students while also elevating the importance of career and technical education. Band co-founder James Hetfield met with GRCC President Bill Pink after a 2019 Grand Rapids performance and said members are intent on spreading the word about the importance of the professional trades and community colleges.

“That Metallica and its foundation continues to invest in GRCC speaks volumes about the band’s dedication to providing professional trades skills, but also to the success of our Metallica Scholars program and the lives that have been changed,” GRCC President Bill Pink said. “We’re proud to continue this partnership and provide additional opportunities for West Michigan residents with this support.”

The foundation awarded GRCC Workforce Training $25,000 to help continue a program aimed at underserved community members, giving them career skills as well as hands-on welding experience.

GRCC partners with local employers so students can participate in site visits, employee panels and mentoring to help them determine if welding is a good fit for their career goals. Each student participates in individualized career-preparation with GRCC to ensure they are job-ready upon completion of their welding license.

 “This is a great opportunity for individuals in our community to get in-demand skills and great jobs,” said Julie Parks, interim dean of the School of Workforce Development. “The Metallica Scholars program is a great example of how philanthropy, educators, and employers can come together to fill vitally needed jobs and provide meaningful employment opportunities as our region recovers from the pandemic.”

GRCC student Krista Steffens last year earned recognition from the Michigan Department of Education. She was honored with a 2020 Breaking Traditions Award, given to students who overcame obstacles and stereotypes to succeed in career and technical education programs.

“As a touring entity we are in direct involvement with multiple essential career choices along our path,” Metallica’s Hetfield said. “From electrical, professional driving, culinary, mechanical maintenance, public safety, logistical organizers. And that just scratches the surface. Those, along with a multitude of other technical careers, make our touring and our performances possible. We are passionate and grateful to these trades and tradespeople.”

GRCC was one of 10 programs selected for the initial Metallica Scholars program in late 2018, and was tapped again for a second round in 2020.

“The foundation and the band pay attention and follow these programs and students, and there is no doubt that lives have been changed,” said Dr. Edward Frank, executive director of AWMH.

“What makes this work so unique is that in addition to supporting students directly, our goal is not just to change individual lives, it is to unabashedly promote the trades as meaningful and well-paying career pathways,” he said. “We are not afraid to be loud nor to dig in on things we believe in, and we believe in these students.”  

Walter G. Bumphus, AACC’s president and CEO, said he is proud to work with Metallica to advance the career and technical education provided by the nation’s community colleges.

“Colleges across the country provide pathways to well-paying jobs through programs, services and training that lead to in-demand skills, certificates and degrees for students,” he said. “These programs are responsive to the needs of local businesses and provide a pipeline of qualified workers to local industry. It’s a win-win for our students and the local economy. For Metallica to continue to invest in these students and communities is a testament to the power of the workforce education community colleges provide and we are proud to do this work with them.”