Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates: WI apprentices earn $200,000 in scholarships

Madison – Employers can’t keep up with industry demand due to a lack of skilled workers, making apprenticeship more important than ever. In fact, construction and industrial trades jobs are projected to grow 10% or more through 2024, according to theWisconsin Department of Workforce Development.


Wisconsin’s technical colleges play a crucial role in developing the local and state workforce by instructing apprentices in the theory and practice of highly skilled, in-demand occupations. But 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.


Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates has supported apprentices with financial need since 2013 when the Tools of the Trade $1,000 Apprentice Scholarship program was created. Many apprentices juggle work, school and family obligations, and their modest wages are often not enough to cover equipment, clothing and tools for their trades. And even if they qualify for financial aid, it might fall short of their need.


Dana Ray, a single mother of four young children and an electrician apprentice at Chippewa Valley Technical College, is one of 200 apprentices who recently received a $1,000 scholarship from Great Lakes. She said, “Now I can buy the warm clothes I need to work outside and new tools to replace ones I’ve borrowed. I’ll also use the scholarship to cover the cost of the 2017 National Electric Code book so I can study for the state exam.”


Like Dana, Damon Lusz turned to apprenticeship as a way to better provide for his family, even though it meant making sacrifices in the short term. He’s a third of the way through the Telecommunications (VDV) Installer apprenticeship program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. “I’m very excited and hopeful for my future, but financially it’s incredibly stressful,” Damon said. “Receiving this scholarship is like winning a golden ticket. Now I can afford a good set of boots and a few quality tools that have been on the back burner.”


“Dana and Damon embody the goals of our Tools of the Trade program,” said Richard D. George, President and Chief Executive Officer of Great Lakes. “With the scholarships awarded this spring, our support for Wisconsin’s hardworking apprentices totals nearly $600,000 to date. We’re proud to help apprentices complete their programs, and do our part to help Wisconsin build a stronger workforce.”


Since Great Lakes launched the Tools of the Trade $1,000 Apprentice Scholarship program in 2013, recipients have achieved impressive results: 94% have either completed or continued their training the following semester. And once they have a journeyman certificate in hand, these skilled workers quickly transition to in-demand, well-paid positions—ultimately helping Wisconsin employers compete in the marketplace and improve the economic vitality of their communities.


To learn more about the Tools of the Trade $1,000 Apprentice Scholarship program, visit


2016-2017 Tools of the Trade $1,000 Apprentice Scholarships



Blackhawk Technical College

16 recipients


Chippewa Valley Technical College

14 recipients


Fox Valley Technical College

15 recipients


Gateway Technical College

3 recipients


Lakeshore Technical College

11 recipients


Madison College

37 recipients


Mid-State Technical College

7 recipients


Milwaukee Area Technical College

19 recipients


Moraine Park Technical College

15 recipients


Nicolet Area Technical College

2 recipients


Northcentral Technical College

6 recipients


Northeast Wisconsin Technical College

23 recipients


Southwest Wisconsin Technical College

2 recipients


Waukesha County Technical College

15 recipients


Western Technical College

14 recipients