Industry trade

Tools of the Trade Scholarship Awarded to Over 500 Wisconsin Tech Students in Hope of Filling Labor Shortage | Trade

MADISON (WKOW) — Right now, construction demand is high while workers to meet that demand are at an all-time low.

This is due in part to other industries offering more competitive wages, COVID-19 delaying training, and dozens of construction workers retiring.

There is hope, however.

Ascendium Education Group ensures that graduates of technical schools in Wisconsin can purchase the resources they need to graduate through a scholarship called Tools of the Trade.

“It gave me much-needed funds to buy tools for my job,” said Jenny Conrardy, a fellow.

Conrardy is one of more than 500 technical school graduates who have received the $1,500 scholarship.

“94% of past recipients either completed their programs or continued the program the following year,” said Brett Lindquist, vice president of strategic communications for Ascendium.

Students can use this money to buy tools and safety equipment that might otherwise be too expensive and prevent them from graduating.

“As an electrician, you have to provide all your own tools. And being a single mom, I don’t necessarily have a lot of extra income for that. So a scholarship like this is extremely important to me,” said said Conrardy.

“The scholarship program is just one tool in the arsenal that helps us recruit the best and brightest talent,” said John Huggett, Vice President and General Manager of Boldt.

Huggett said that with an aging and shrinking workforce, his company understands the importance of recruiting talent right out of school.

“We have a situation in the construction industry where the average age of workers over the last 30 years has increased by six years to now reach an average age of 43, so we have invested in recruitment with a program learning opportunities for young people,” Huggett said.

He also said Boldt Construction, like many other businesses, has been hit by the labor shortage.

“Very recently, I had to make a very difficult business decision to let a client know that we would not be able to respond to one of his proposals,

We just didn’t have the manpower for the label,” Huggett said.

Because Boldt doesn’t want to turn away another potential customer, Huggett said the company is willing to give an apprentice a helmet.

“We know we need to do more with less. I think this youth apprenticeship program is really important,” Huggett said.

The Tools of the Trade scholarship is open to anyone attending a technical college in Wisconsin and enrolled in an eligible apprenticeship program.

The Bolt company has over 20 young apprentices and two in the Madison area.