Eight public school systems in Maryland have joined the state’s Youth Apprenticeship Program since the beginning of 2020, bringing the total number of participating jurisdictions up to 20. The program pairs Maryland high school students with employers in a variety of fields, having launched in 2016 as a pilot program.
Apprenticeships through this program allow students to “earn and learn” — make a wage while learning about a trade or industry — and there is a focus on high-growth careers, like the biosciences and health care. Students work for a total of 450 hours, usually from the summer following their junior year through the end of their senior year, and receive related in-class education at the same time.
Anne Arundel, Calvert, Caroline, Charles, Harford, Prince George’s, and Wicomico counties and Baltimore city have all joined the program in the past year and a half.
“The expansion of Apprenticeship Maryland demonstrates our focus on preparing all students for success in post-secondary education and their careers. Youth apprenticeship programs provide critical skill-development and offer hands-on experience aimed at propelling our students toward a promising future,” said Karen Salmon, Maryland’s superintendent of schools, in a press release. “We look forward to the continued growth of these programs and providing more students with the ability to enhance their knowledge and skills.”
According to the Youth Apprenticeship Advisory Committee’s 2020 annual report, 74 students participated in the program in the 2019-2020 school year, making an average of $12.15 per hour. There were 171 employers eligible to sponsor students.
For students in Charles County, this will be the first comprehensive, countywide apprenticeship program available to them; the county has had other one-off apprenticeship and internship programs, but most students find positions through personal connections and networking, said Rebecca Pearson, the director of career and technical education for Charles County Public Schools.
“I think that it is just a way to offer differentiated opportunities for our students. We are aware of how much is gained through apprenticeship,” she said. “Being able to offer more and provide a really concrete foundation and structure of how they’re being offered is really beneficial.”
The first apprenticeships to be offered through the county’s schools will be 12 positions provided by a local trade association for electronics contractors. Applications for those positions have already been distributed to students, who will be able to start as early as this summer.
The Youth Apprenticeship Program also serves as an opportunity for schools to build upon existing relationships with community businesses. In Charles County, business leaders in the area are already involved with the school system in various ways, such as serving on advisory committees for the school’s career development programs.
“This strengthens the buy-in from employers,” Pearson said, noting that participating in the program is mutually beneficial for employers, students and schools. Not only do employers get hardworking employees, but they also are eligible for a $1,000 tax credit for each apprentice hired.
Charles County Public Schools will spend the next year or so working out the details and logistics of the Youth Apprenticeship Program, looking for potential employers and figuring out how best to support students who are enrolled in the program.
On top of the eight school systems that joined the program since the beginning of 2020, 12 school systems around the state were already participating: Allegany, Baltimore, Carroll, Dorchester, Frederick, Howard, Kent, Montgomery, Queen Anne’s, St. Mary’s, Talbot and Washington counties.