Record breaking amounts of scholarships were given out by higher education funding non-profit Ascendium this month through its Tools of the Trade Scholarship program.
Ascendium provides opportunities for those with low-income backgrounds to pursue postsecondary and workforce training to advance opportunities for academic success. Its Tools of the Trade Scholarship program offered 771 trade apprenticeship scholarships totaling $1,542,000 this year. The scholarship program is currently in its tenth year.
“Ascendium sees apprenticeship as an opportunity for upward mobility by providing learners with a pathway to a well-paying job, particularly for those from low-income backgrounds. Ascendium knows that financial pressure can make it hard for learners to complete apprenticeships, especially if they are juggling school, work, and family,” Ascendium said in a press release.
The scholarship fund helps apprentices purchase necessities to continue their education, such as tools, equipment, clothing, curriculum costs and more for its recipients in construction and industrial trade apprenticeships in the Wisconsin Technical College System.
Apprentices like Omar Ortiz, who is currently studying to become an electrician, is happy to receive the funds to fill in gaps in his repertoire of tools.
“Tools can be really expensive. I had most of them, but there were certain tools that I needed but I just couldn’t afford to spend four, five, six hundred on them,” said Ortiz.
Ortiz had no plans of pursuing university education. Worried about the almost universal problem of mounting student debt, Ortiz decided he wanted to get into trades in his final years of high school. Ortiz currently attends Madison College in its electrician apprenticeship program.
Being able to purchase the tools needed from the scholarship money makes Ortiz feel more dependable and able to get his job done in the long run.
“Being able to go out on the field and use my own tools, not having to go around asking for people and bother them,” said Ortiz. “Most foremen are cool with it. They don’t say anything. But for me, it’s kind of like well, I know I’m gonna use this tool a lot. There’s no reason for me to bother them every time I need it.”
Scholarships were distributed to students at 16 different colleges in the Wisconsin Technical College System. The role of these colleges and the scholarship aims to bolster careers for in-demand jobs in trades through helping its recipients overcome financial barriers to pursuing a career.