MATC apprentices getting some green for their gear

Mark Feldmann,

April 26, 2022

MILWAUKEE – Jessica Scherz is geared up to gear up.

The third-year steamfitting apprentice was one of 55 Milwaukee Area Technical College students enrolled in construction and industrial trade apprenticeship programs to receive $1,500 scholarships to purchase proper work gear.

The “Tools of the Trade” scholarships, funded by the Madison nonprofit Ascendium Education Group, can be used to buy tools, clothing and equipment required to work as electricians, pipefitters, steamfitters, HVAC technicians and sheet metal workers.

And Scherz, a Cudahy native who worked as a welder before entering her steamfitting construction apprenticeship, said the bill for those items can add up quickly.

For her job she needs hand tools, reinforced and fire-resistant work pants, a helmet, heavy-duty gloves, safety goggles, a protective jacket and steel-toe boots. Scherz already has purchased many of those items, so she said she will use the scholarship money to replenish her savings account.

“On the job you can burn through clothes pretty fast,” said Scherz, 30. “And these clothes can be really pricey. Pants can cost $60 and even more if they are fire resistant. It’s nice to have a scholarship that supports the trades, especially that can help women working in the trades.”

Ascendium this year awarded $766,500 to 511 eligible apprentices across the state’s 16 technical colleges. 

An apprenticeship is an “earn while you learn” program with a formal training agreement, an apprentice contract. The employer teaches the skills of the occupation and pays wages to the apprentice. The classroom instruction offered at MATC is theoretical knowledge pertaining to the occupation.

Chris Moczynski, a first-year environmental services technician apprentice, was pleasantly surprised to receive his check in the mail.

“Our instructor told us about the program and told us to apply,” he said. “It was nice to get. It will help us out a lot.”

These scholarships can help apprentices complete their training. More than 90% of past scholarship recipients have completed or continued their apprenticeship following their scholarship award, Ascendium officials said.

“When learners have the opportunity to overcome financial barriers, they can focus on completing their apprenticeship and securing an in-demand job,” said Amy Kerwin, vice president of education philanthropy at Ascendium. “Whether studying to be an electrician, plumber, steamfitter or another trade, these apprentices can breathe a little easier knowing they have some of their expenses covered.” 

Scherz planned to attend Universal Technical Institute in Florida and study design engineering after graduating from New Berlin Eisenhower High School, but the tuition was too steep.

Instead, she learned welding at a steel fabricating company in Hartford. “I caught on really quickly,” she said. “I have always been a pretty hands-on person and always building things. Welding was something I always wanted to do.”

One day on her computer she saw an image of a steamfitter on a worksite and decided she had a new career goal. A steamfitter designs, develops and installs piping systems used in a variety of buildings and structures. 

She served as a steamfitting construction pre-apprentice for seven months. Today she is in the third year of a five-year apprenticeship, working 40 hours a week, taking related coursework at MATC’s Oak Creek Campus and more hand-on training with her sponsoring union.

“It’s been a lot more than I expected and it seems way too good to be true,” she said. “It has been challenging, but I also know I’m bettering myself. MATC has been a real stronghold for me by offering classes at night.”

MATC apprenticeship students winning scholarships are:

Electrician: Miguel Aviles, Nolan Cleasby, Robert Giese, Jacob Griffin, Steven King, Craig McKandes, Joseph Mertes, Christopher Polk, Michael Posthuma, Aleksandar Radmanovic, Zach Schaefer, Joe Scianni, Dakota Scott, David Sendek, Adam Smith, Jacob Tousey, Mark Wolf.

Environmental Service Technician: Justin Kadow, Chris Moczynski, Jared Parker

HVAC: Keivante Love, Bryan Mueller, Robert Nelson, Austin Nowak, Dan Thoms

Industrial Electrician: Codie Duley

Pipefitter: Ezra Diaz, Alex Johnson, Cody Vargas

Sheet Metal: Ryan Barth, Joshua Dieter, Corey Herrmann, Kevin Kleinmark, Caleb McGinn, Jacob Moser, Jack Narduzzi, Alexander Pencak, Tyler Russell, Nicholas Sadlon, Anthony Skorupski, Zachary Tyczynski, Josh Vitlas

Steamfitting Construction/Service: Jacob Deates, JohnPaul Frelk, Austin Gall, Trenton Jones, Elias Martinez, Phillip Morris, Ayden Palmer, Jessica Scherz, Casey Schultz, Kirk Stanford, Paul Swiger, Andre Vedbraaten, Raymond Wendt

To learn more about apprenticeship programs, visit

More information about the Tools of the Trade scholarships can be found here:

Wisconsin’s largest technical college and one of the most diverse two-year institutions in the Midwest, Milwaukee Area Technical College is a key driver of southeastern Wisconsin’s economy and has provided innovative education in the region since 1912. More than 25,000 students per year attend the college’s four campuses and community-based sites or learn online. MATC offers affordable and accessible education and training opportunities that empower and transform lives in the community. The college offers more than 170 academic programs; and transfer options leading to bachelor’s degrees with more than 40 four-year colleges and universities. Overwhelmingly, MATC graduates build careers and businesses in southeastern Wisconsin. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.