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Skills Boost: Wisconsin Technical College System Apprentices Receive $1.6M in Scholarships from Ascendium

Ascendium is pleased to announce 801 construction and industrial apprentices in the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) have been selected to receive a $2,000 Tools of the Trade scholarship this year. In its eleventh year, Ascendium’s Tools of the Trade Scholarship Program provides funding to apprentices for expenses related to their training, including the purchase of tools, equipment and clothing, tuition, and more. To date, the program has provided over $5 million in scholarships to just over 3,500 apprentices statewide. 

Apprenticeships pair on-the-job training with classroom instruction, allowing individuals to “earn while they learn.” They are an alternative pathway to a family-sustaining career in an in-demand field. According to WTCS’s most recent apprenticeship completion report, registered apprentices who complete their related instruction through a Wisconsin technical college earn an annual median salary of $85,000. 

Participation in apprenticeship programs at WTCS colleges has increased about 19% over the past five years, indicating a growth in popularity as a pathway to a good job. In fact, Wisconsin’s Registered Apprenticeship Program reached a record-high number of participants last year. Additionally, 97% of surveyed employed apprentices from WTCS have continued working in Wisconsin, creating a steady talent pipeline for local employers. 

“The apprenticeship model is an integral part of educating Wisconsin’s workforce and meeting the needs of employers. Apprentices begin earning immediately, are paid wages during classroom instruction, avoid college debt, and have an on-ramp to lifelong learning,” said Morna Foy, president of WTCS. “I am grateful to Ascendium for their Tools of the Trade Scholarship Program which helps so many students with necessary expenses as they go through their apprenticeship.” 

Wisconsin has a long tradition of apprenticeship training. The state passed the nation’s first apprenticeship law in 1911, regulating apprenticeship programs and establishing the state’s vocational school system, now WTCS. Wisconsin’s apprenticeship law remains one of the most robust in the U.S.  

Momentum around workforce training programs like apprenticeships continues to grow as well, with Governor Tony Evers declaring 2024 the “Year of the Worker” in his January State of the State address, bolstering the state’s commitment to addressing generational workforce challenges and meeting the needs of a 21st-century economy. 

“Like Governor Evers, we understand the value of apprenticeships to both learners and employers. Apprentices get to ‘earn while they learn,’ building a skill set that is required for an in-demand job, and employers get the benefit of recruiting, developing, and training their future workforce,” said Ascendium Chairman, President, & Chief Executive Officer Richard D. George. “We’re pleased to provide a scholarship that helps apprentices reach their education and career goals while also helping employers fill a workforce need.”  

2023-2024 Tools of the Trade Scholarship Recipients 

Blackhawk Technical College 
39 recipients 

Chippewa Valley Technical College 
41 recipients 

Fox Valley Technical College 
109 recipients 

Gateway Technical College 
8 recipients 

Lakeshore Technical College 
41 recipients 

Madison College 
135 recipients 

Mid-State Technical College 
97 recipients 

Milwaukee Area Technical College 
29 recipients 

Moraine Park Technical College 
50 recipients 

Nicolet College 
5 recipients 

Northcentral Technical College 
24 recipients 

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College 
75 recipients 

Northwood Technical College 
8 recipients 

Southwest Wisconsin Technical College 
2 recipients 

Waukesha County Technical College 
95 recipients 

Western Technical College 
43 recipients 

About Ascendium  

Ascendium Education Group is committed to making education and training beyond high school a reality for more people. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, we fund initiatives across the U.S. that help learners from low-income backgrounds achieve upward mobility; provide student and employee success solutions to colleges and businesses; invest in education-focused innovations to improve learner outcomes; and provide information, tools, and counseling to help millions of borrowers successfully repay their federal student loans. While we have many roles, we have one goal — elevating opportunity by creating a world where everyone can rise to their highest potential. To learn more, visit  

About Wisconsin Technical College System  

The Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) offers more than 500 programs awarding two-year associate degrees, one- and two-year technical diplomas, short-term technical diplomas and certificates, and classroom-related education for many Wisconsin apprenticeships. WTCS is the major provider of customized instruction and technical assistance for Wisconsin employers. With nearly 280,000 people enrolling in a technical college each year, it is the largest higher education system in the state.