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200 Wisconsin Construction and Industrial Trade Apprentices Receive $1,000 Scholarships

Financial Boost Promotes Program Completion, Meets Employer Needs for Skilled Workers

—Employers are in need of skilled workers now more than ever. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development projects job growth at a 21 percent increase for construction jobs and a 15 percent increase in the industrial trades through 2022. This skills gap also is a national issue, with the Obama administration prioritizing apprenticeship training in an attempt to close the gap and help more Americans move to middle class jobs.

The 16 colleges in the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) are taking action by preparing a new generation with the skills and credentials needed for success in the trades. "Our colleges are proven partners in developing and advancing the talent Wisconsin's employers need to be successful," said Dr. Morna K. Foy, WTCS President.

But before they can achieve journeyworker status and fill good jobs that are available now, apprentices must complete up to five years of specialized training and classroom instruction. Apprentices earn modest wages on the job and have limited options for financial aid to help with program tuition. They also are required to purchase expensive tools and clothing for their trades. For apprentices struggling to make ends meet, the cost of something as basic as a pair of steel-toe boots can stand in the way of program completion.

WTCS and Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation are committed to the success of Wisconsin's apprentices. In 2013, Great Lakes began offering $1,000 scholarships to help WTCS apprentices in the construction and industrial trades cover out-of-pocket expenses such as tuition, tools and clothing so that more of them are able to complete their training.

Foy said, "As employer and student interest in apprenticeship began to take off, so did the need to ensure those who begin training programs complete them. Tools of the Trade scholarships from Great Lakes make a real difference for our students, whose success is ultimately great for employers."

Great Lakes recently awarded $200,000 in scholarships to 200 construction and industrial trade apprentices attending 15 WTCS colleges. Recipients include military veterans, single parents, recent high school graduates and displaced workers. A total of 390 scholarships have been awarded to apprentices across the state over the three years of the Tools of the Trade $1,000 Apprentice Scholarship program.

Apprentices are using their scholarships in a variety of ways. Scott Vest of Evansville is a second-year ironworker apprentice at Madison College, as well as a father of two and the sole income earner after his wife lost her job. One of his teachers recommended that he apply for a Great Lakes scholarship to help ease the burden. "Receiving the scholarship means a lot," he said. "Anything that's bettering my family is bettering me."

Jon TenDolle of Sheboygan Falls is in the third year of an electrician apprenticeship at Moraine Park Technical College and used his $1,000 scholarship to purchase tools, boots and work pants. He said, "I'm looking to be a journeyman electrician and after that I am hoping to be a master electrician. This scholarship helps me get the tools I need to get there."

"We've seen that 96 percent of Tools of the Trade scholarship recipients either complete or continue their training, so we know our scholarships work to help hardworking men and women build rewarding careers in the construction and industrial trades," said Richard D. George, President and Chief Executive Officer of Great Lakes.

Meet our 2015-2016 Tools of the Trade Scholarship Recipients »

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