Employers are in need of certified trades workers now more than ever. Associated Builders and Contractors estimates the construction industry will face a shortage of almost 2 million skilled workers nationwide by the end of the decade. Building on the state’s tradition of apprenticeship programs, Wisconsin’s technical colleges are helping to meet this challenge by training a new generation of workers in the construction and industrial trades. But the road to completion is long and often paved with financial obstacles that can hinder apprenticeships.
Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation has committed $170,000 for Tools of the Trade Apprentice Scholarships offered across the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS). Scholarships help construction and industrial trade apprentices cover program costs, including tuition, specialized equipment, tools, and clothes. This marks a dramatic expansion of the program introduced at Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) last year. Scholarships there are named in honor of Milwaukee’s Jim Elliott, who is dedicated to advancing the trades in Wisconsin.
Quinn Palmer is a father of three and a steamfitter apprentice at MATC who, like many other apprentices, has made sacrifices in order to invest in his future. Apprentices earn modest wages without the benefit of financial aid during their on-the-job training—which can last up to five years. Palmer’s instructors encouraged him to apply for a Great Lakes scholarship, and he received a $1,000 check last January. “I purchased a new welding helmet and welding gloves, and paid for part of spring semester tuition,” he said. “This scholarship was very beneficial to me.”
“Great Lakes understands the apprentice’s dilemma, and we don’t want to see the expense of clothing or tools prevent program completion,” said Richard D. George, president and chief executive officer of Great Lakes. “Our Tools of the Trade scholarships help hardworking apprentices earn their certificates and join a workforce that will move Wisconsin forward.”
Great Lakes is accepting applications for Tools of the Trade $1,000 Apprentice Scholarships until October 17, 2014.