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NWTC Apprentices win Great Lakes scholarship grants

Wednesday January 21, 2015
Architecture students wear hard hats

Program aims to assist students not usually eligible for financial aid

Now there's a new reason to choose an apprenticeship program for career preparation. In addition to being paid to attend college, students can qualify for up to $1,000 for tools through a new grant program. That's good news for students who generally must buy their own tools and do not qualify for financial aid.

Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation recently awarded 170 “Tools of the Trade” scholarships of $1,000 each to apprentices pursuing their "related instruction" at Wisconsin Technical Colleges. The students are enrolled in construction and industrial trades apprenticeship programs throughout the state.

Eleven NWTC apprentices have received the awards, although names are not available at this time.

Skilled worker shortages are hitting industries across the United States, but the shortage is affecting the construction industry more than most. In a 2014 national survey conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America, 83 percent of construction firms reported difficulty finding qualified workers. Preparing individuals for these family-supporting careers and alleviating this shortage is a critical priority for the industry.

In an apprenticeship, individuals receive on-the-job training from an employer and classroom instruction often provided by a technical college. The cost of specialized equipment can present a financial challenge. In addition, while apprentices earn modest wages, they are not typically eligible for financial aid to help with tuition.

“This is the latest in a series of investments Great Lakes has made in technical college students, who face real-world financial obstacles,” said Morna Foy, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System. “Great Lakes delivers when it comes to supporting student success and opportunity.”

Great Lakes’ earnings support one of the nation’s largest education philanthropy programs. Since 2006, it has committed nearly $130 million to promote higher education access and completion for students of color, low-income students, and first generation students.

“We don’t want to see the cost of a welding helmet or steel-toe boots stand in the way of program completion,” said Great Lakes President and CEO Richard D. George. “We created Tools of the Trade scholarships to help cover program costs so hardworking apprentices can meet employer needs for skilled workers.”

Great Lakes introduced this scholarship program in 2013 at Milwaukee Area Technical College, and expanded the opportunity to all 16 WTCS colleges in fall 2014. This year’s Tools of the Trade $1,000 Apprentice Scholarship attracted nearly 450 applicants.

“We look forward to learning the impact of this scholarship, as measured by the number of apprentices who complete their training for rewarding careers,” George said.

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