Community Commitment
March 21, 2024

Power of Us scholarship is building the next generation of energy workers

Wisconsin student lands first-of-its-kind Xcel Energy scholarship

Matt Thoms has always been smart about finances. While in high school, he picked up a job at an auto repair shop. After he graduated, he worked his way up at the shop to become a structural technician and then an autobody technician. His goal was to save enough to pay cash for the Electrical Power Distribution program at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) in Eau Claire. 
When he began the program in June 2023, he wasn’t resting on his financial laurels. He knew scholarships were available, so he threw his hat in the ring for Xcel Energy’s “Power of Us” scholarship – a new full-program scholarship, up to $10,000, that includes the cost of tuition, materials and fees associated with the Electrical Power Distribution or Gas Utility Technician programs offered at CVTC. 
As a longtime partner with CVTC, Xcel Energy made a significant investment to launch the scholarship in 2023 to increase the number of multicultural students in the electric and natural gas industry. Thoms, who is part Filipino, said he was in disbelief when he received word he was selected for the scholarship. “My jaw hit the floor,” he said. “I just couldn’t believe it.” 
“We strongly believe that this scholarship opens new opportunities for students who may have not considered a career in the electric or natural gas industry,” said Brian Elwood, regional vice president, Customer and Community Service in Wisconsin and Michigan. “The company wants to lead by example to foster new avenues for recruitment, hiring, advancement and development to reach a broader candidate pool for careers in the energy industry.”  
Karen Kohler, CVTC vice president of Institutional Advancement and executive director of the CVTC Foundation, said the college and Xcel Energy have a long-standing relationship. “Xcel Energy is a key partner on our advisory committees, provides sponsorship opportunities for many of our events, and is a known leader in our community and region,” she said. “They show that it is vital to have a diverse workforce that reflects the communities and customers the company serves.” 
BJ Rauckman, now retired from Xcel Energy, oversaw the company’s electric distribution operations and is a member of the CVTC Foundation board. Rauckman said the company is known for helping foster growth within the energy industry to attract new students and workers. 
“As an Xcel Energy employee and retiree, I feel proud and grateful that the company is able to offer an opportunity like this to a prospective energy industry student,” he said. “Xcel Energy has been forward-looking in its support for technical colleges and specifically CVTC by being an active member of their Foundation Board and serving with members on both their electric power distribution and gas advisory committees.”  
Rauckman said Xcel Energy relies on CVTC for much of its skilled workforce. In addition, Xcel Energy takes advantage of safety training and other electrical power distribution workforce resources at the college. Thoms is learning more about Xcel Energy now that he was awarded the scholarship, which will pay for the entirety of his technical degree.  
“It’s an amazing opportunity to have with an employer that is dedicated to bringing people into their industry. It is one of the places I hope to get into as a new lineman,” Thoms said.  
“To have this opportunity – I’m going to take it and run with it.”