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Baltimore announces new apprenticeship program

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh talks with reporters afrter meeting with Gov. Larry Hogan Monday to discuss ways to combat violence in the city. (Bryan P. Sears)

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh (File photo)

Baltimore officials announced Wednesday an apprenticeship program they hope creates meaningful jobs while also contributing to the rebuilding of Baltimore City Community College.

The apprenticeship program for industrial maintenance mechanics will create opportunities for Baltimore residents to find careers and not just jobs, Mayor Catherine Pugh said at a news conference.

“We believe that Baltimore really deserves employment opportunities that really lead to living and above wages,” she said. “We’ve been working, trying to create apprenticeship programs where job opportunities really do exist.”

The apprenticeship program is a partnership between the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, Baltimore City Community College, the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation and private partners including Veolia North America and Johns Hopkins.

The program will give students the opportunity to get on-the-job and classroom training while providing employers a trained workforce.

“This creates a win-win for both the employers and the apprentices, allowing the opportunity for the apprentices to advance on the job quicker, through the mastery of their skills and their competencies, while also providing the employer access to a higher skilled workforce at a potentially quicker rate,” said Chris MacLarion, from DLLR. “Registered apprenticeship has proven itself to be the premier way for employers and for the industry to train an attractive pipeline of workers.”

Private employers say apprenticeship programs could help them fill needs for critical positions as the current workforce ages out of jobs.

That includes the mechanic program announced Tuesday that Veolia said would help it meet needs necessary to help the city function.

“Like many companies today, Veolia is facing the challenge of an aging workforce,” said Matthew Ware, the company’s vice president for operations. “What we do, providing critical energy and environmental services, is not glamorous. But it is an incredibly important service to ensure cities have clean water, reliable electricity and a safe, sustainable way to dispose of waste. It’s important work. What’s more, it can provide strong wages and a career.”

The new apprenticeship program could also contribute to attempts to make Baltimore City Community College more relevant to the city’s residents and businesses. With the program, the school becomes the first community college in Maryland to sponsor a competency-based registered apprentice program, MacLarion said.

The college has suffered through enrollment declines and low graduation rates. Many city residents choose to attend community college in Baltimore County over the city.

The apprenticeship program could be part of the turnaround.

“Baltimore City Community College is undergoing a revitalization and workforce development is one of the pillars of our efforts,” said James H. Johnson, Jr., the school’s interim president. “By partnering with the local business community to provide job-ready employees, we are positioning the college as a change agent in the city. As we move forward, we are committed to student success and we are focused on preparing our graduates for a four-year degree as well as job placement.”

Other efforts include a program created by Pugh that, for the first time this fall, will send city high school graduates to the college for free. Pugh noted Wednesday some of those students could benefit from the apprenticeship program.

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