Jack Hogan//September 14, 2023
//September 14, 2023
Maryland received more than 500 applications for at least 200 spots in what Gov. Wes Moore has said is a first-in-the-nation state-government-sponsored service option for recent high school graduates.
More than 100 employers, including nonprofit organizations, for-profit businesses, public agencies and schools, have applied to host program participants, according to the Department of Service and Civic Innovation, which Moore established with an executive order on his first day in office in January.
The “pilot year” for the program will begin after the state reviews applications and pairs those who are accepted with an organization, department spokesperson Tess Hetzel wrote in an email.
State officials hope the program, seen as an alternative to pursuing a college education or career and technical training immediately after finishing high school, will channel young people into public service, strengthen the pipeline of workers for state and local governments and expand the state’s service opportunities.
“You can serve in conservation, you can serve in education, you can serve in housing, you can support our veterans, you can serve in reentry work for folks returning from incarceration. It is completely your choice,” Moore said in April before signing the service year option into law. “We just want to make sure that we’re offering our young people the chance to make our state better.”
“We are thrilled with the response from all applicants, both from a member and partner organization perspective — especially given the widespread interest from every region in the state and for the diverse potential in career pathway opportunities,” Moore spokeswoman Brittany Marshall said in a statement.
The department plans to accept at least 500 applicants next year and 2,000 by the program’s fourth year.
More than 60,000 Marylanders received either a high school diploma or a similar certificate in 2022, according to the State Department of Education.
In the coming months, the department is expected to release information about applications for next year’s program.
The service year option is available to Maryland residents ages 18 to 21 who’ve received a high school diploma or completion certificate, or who’ve earned a GED in the state.
Program members will work at least 30 hours per week and make no less than $15 per hour while receiving job training and professional development from the organization for which they’re working.
Those who complete the nine-month program will also be eligible for $6,000 toward tuition or as a stipend.
The state is expected to spend $23 million to pay the program participants over the next five years, according to an estimate from the Department of Legislative Services.
The Department of Service and Civic Innovation governs both the new service year program and the Maryland Corps Program, established in 2016 to provide paid service opportunities to help high school graduates transition to postsecondary education or the workforce.
When Moore signed the service year option into law in April, the Maryland Corps Program still hadn’t made it off the ground.
Lawmakers restructured Maryland Corps in 2022 under Republican former Gov. Larry Hogan, but the program didn’t receive any funding.
The program received $5.3 million in last year’s state budget, and this year’s budget transferred the funding to the Department of Service and Civic Innovation.
The Maryland Corps Program isn’t limited to recent high school graduates of a certain age, and the state is expected to prioritize people from historically marginalized communities who want to work in public and community service.
Maryland Corps members will have most of the same responsibilities and benefits as participants in the service year program, including at least $15 hourly pay and $6,000 for tuition or as a cash stipend upon completion, though they won’t be required to work at least 30 hours per week.