LA CROSSE, Wis., Dec. 22, 2016 – The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in the construction sector will grow 2.6 percent annually between 2012 and 2022, which equates to 1.6 million new jobs. Yet a lack of qualified employees is slowing the industry’s rebound after the recession, and Associated Builders and Contractors estimates a shortage of almost 2 million skilled workers nationwide by the end of the decade.
At a time when good-paying jobs are going unfilled, apprenticeship programs throughout the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) are preparing a new generation of workers for the construction and industrial trades. Western Technical College is just one of Wisconsin’s 16 technical colleges that are helping apprentices get certified to fill these in-demand positions.
The goal of apprenticeship programs is to provide on-the-job training for family-supporting careers and opportunities for upward mobility. But, the road to program completion can be long and often fraught with financial obstacles. Apprenticeships combine several years of practical training with classroom instruction, and while apprentices earn modest wages on the job, they are not eligible for financial aid to help with program tuition.
Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation has awarded nearly $400,000 in scholarships to apprentices across Wisconsin over the past three years of the Tools of the Trade $1,000 Apprentice Scholarship program. These scholarships continue to have the desired impact, with 96 percent of recipients either completing their apprenticeships or continuing in their programs the following semester.
Now in the program's fourth year, Great Lakes is offering Tools of the Trade $1,000 Apprentice Scholarships again with another $200,000 commitment for the 2016-2017 academic year.
This year 21 apprentices from Western applied and 20 were awarded. This is an increase over last year’s 12 recipients.
“Great Lakes understands the apprentice’s dilemma, and we don’t want to see the cost of a welding helmet or steel-toe boots stand in the way of program completion,” said Richard D. George, President and Chief Executive Officer of Great Lakes. “Our scholarships help Wisconsin’s hardworking apprentices cover their program costs so they can help meet employer needs for skilled workers.”
“We were very grateful that many Western apprentices each received $1,000 scholarships,” said Bob Marconi, associate dean of the Industrial Technologies division. “These apprentices represent the skilled workforce of tomorrow in the greater La Crosse area. The scholarships will provide financial assistance to offset educational expenses and increase their success.”
For more information on Great Lakes High Education Guaranty Corporation, visit home.mygreatlakes.org.
For more information on programs at Western, call 608-785-9200.