Wisconsin has a longstanding tradition of apprenticeship, developing highly-skilled workers capable of meeting industry needs while also providing individuals with a lifetime skill and knowledge of a trade. Today’s industry demands these trained workers, especially as Wisconsin businesses face a shortage of workers due to retirements, falling birth rates, and loss of talent as people leave the state for other employment opportunities.
Apprenticeships are a great solution to the skilled worker shortage. However, it may be hard for people to complete apprenticeships, especially if they are juggling school, work, and family. There are also upfront costs to starting a program, including the purchase of necessary items like tools, equipment and protective clothing.
It’s why Ascendium Education Group will support 511 construction and industrial trade apprentices in the Wisconsin Technical College System through their Tools of the Trade Scholarship program. Each apprentice received a $1,500 scholarship to help purchase tools, clothing, and equipment required by their trades to complete their programs and secure in-demand jobs. In total, Ascendium awarded $766,500 to eligible apprentices across 16 technical colleges this year.
For Alaina Sorensen, an electrical apprentice at Gateway Technical College following in her father’s footsteps, receiving a Tools of the Trade scholarship was a great motivator to keep going.
“The Tools of the Trade scholarship means a great deal to a person like me,” Sorensen said. “Being made aware that I am heard and there are individuals that wish for my success is extremely inspiring. I am thoroughly grateful. Recognition of our hard work and determination keeps the fire burning,” she added. “Apprentices are regular people trying to support ourselves and our aspirations while fighting the pressure and physical wear of the job.”
The program has been remarkably effective at helping apprentices like Sorensen stay on track in their training. More than 90% of past scholarship recipients have completed or continued their apprenticeship in the fall following their scholarship award.
Ascendium recognizes the important role of apprenticeships in preparing students for working in the skilled trades. The nonprofit has supported apprentices with a financial need in the Wisconsin Technical College System since 2013. With this year’s award, Ascendium’s Tools of the Trade Scholarship program surpassed $2 million in total scholarship awards to eligible apprentices across the system.
“When learners have the opportunity to overcome financial barriers, they can focus on completing their apprenticeship and securing an in-demand job,” Amy Kerwin, Vice President of Education Philanthropy at Ascendium said. “Whether studying to be an electrician, plumber, steamfitter, or another trade, these apprentices can breathe a little easier knowing they have some of their expenses covered. We wish them continued success in their apprenticeship and subsequent career.”
2021-2022 Tools of the Trade Scholarship Recipients
Blackhawk Technical College
Chippewa Valley Technical College
Fox Valley Technical College
Gateway Technical College
Lakeshore Technical College
Madison Area Technical College
Mid-State Technical College
Milwaukee Area Technical College
Moraine Park Technical College
Nicolet College Technical College
Northcentral Technical College
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College
Northwood Technical College
Southwest Wisconsin Technical College
Waukesha County Technical College
Western Technical College
About Ascendium Education Group: Ascendium Education Group is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to helping people reach the education and career goals that matter to them. Ascendium invests in initiatives designed to increase the number of students from low-income backgrounds who complete postsecondary degrees, certificates, and workforce training programs, with an emphasis on first-generation students, incarcerated adults, rural community members, students of color and veterans. Ascendium’s work identifies, validates, and expands best practices to promote large-scale change at the institutional, system, and state levels, with the intention of elevating opportunity for all.