Feb. 28, 2020
The Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship is featuring monthly profiles of our PAYA Network Members to explore how partnerships across the country are working to launch or expand high-quality youth apprenticeship programs.
In honor of career and technical education (CTE) month, February's program profile focuses on how Maryland is aligning youth apprenticeship with broader CTE efforts to expand quality work-based learning opportunities for high school students.
Across the country, youth apprenticeships are gaining traction as a way to expose high school students to paid, work-based learning experiences; build academic, technical, and employability skills; and create affordable pathways to and through college. In recent years, several states have adopted policies to advance youth apprenticeships and invest in program development. Maryland is no exception.
In 2015, Governor Hogan signed Maryland House Bill 942, which established Apprenticeship Maryland under the administration of the Maryland Department of Labor and the Maryland State Department of Education. Apprenticeship Maryland is a youth apprenticeship program for high school students age 16 and up that provides a pathway to careers in manufacturing and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). What began as a pilot serving 11 students in two counties has since expanded to include 70 students in 15 of Maryland’s 24 school districts. Eligible employers in the state, who are approved by the Maryland Apprenticeship and Training Council, hire high school juniors and seniors who complete at least 450 hours of work-based training under the supervision of an eligible employer and at least one year of related classroom instruction. The program provides high school youth with academic and occupational skills that lead to a high school diploma and a State Skill Certificate issued by the Department of Labor. Depending on the apprenticeship experience, students can also earn postsecondary credit and in some instances, a college degree.
What makes Maryland’s youth apprenticeship expansion strategy unique is that the state has intentionally integrated youth apprenticeship within the state’s broader career and technical education (CTE) system by classifying youth apprenticeship as a CTE program of study. A program of study offers a non-duplicative sequence of academic and CTE coursework that spans secondary and postsecondary levels and progresses in specificity. High-quality youth apprenticeships and programs of study have several elements in common -- they align to rigorous academic standards; help build technical skills relevant to a specific occupational area; address the training needs of business and industry; provide work-based learning opportunities; and culminate in the attainment of a postsecondary certificate, degree or industry-recognized credential. Both programs are career pathways that open doors for youth to pursue advanced education and training in a variety of career options. High school students in Maryland can participate in a youth apprenticeship as one of three qualified high school graduation pathways and go on to full employment with their youth apprenticeship sponsor or an adult apprenticeship program. They can also choose to pursue postsecondary education.
There are a few key advantages of classifying youth apprenticeships as a recognized program of study. For one, districts can leverage federal CTE dollars to support program development and delivery. Additionally, districts can take advantage of their existing CTE infrastructure to structure an apprenticeship’s related classroom instruction, recruit CTE students to become apprentices, and secure employers who help shape the CTE curriculum as program sponsors.
Another unique feature of Apprenticeship Maryland is the range of supports to school systems as well as to postsecondary and employer partners interested in offering apprenticeships for high school students. Through Apprenticeship Maryland, the Department of Labor deploys navigators to work with a school district’s CTE director and apprenticeship coordinator to recruit employers as well as help businesses become a youth sponsored site. This collaboration has facilitated the rapid growth in youth apprenticeships despite some common challenges to program expansion. One such challenge is the need to customize related instruction for students working with different employers. This is where a district’s apprenticeship coordinator plays a key role. The coordinator liaises with businesses to understand their training needs and works with school leadership and postsecondary partners to craft an education plan for each apprentice.
To date, Apprenticeship Maryland has engaged 140 employers across a variety of industries, including skilled trades, health care, automotive, education, culinary, journalism, transportation, and logistics. One of the state’s small employers, Dynamic Auto, an automotive company in Frederick County, turned to youth apprenticeship as a solution for their workforce needs. Not only do they sponsor Registered Apprenticeships, but they also pay for students to earn their associate's degree from Montgomery College or Community College of Baltimore County. Due to the program’s success, the youth apprenticeship now serves as the company’s primary pipeline for talent acquisition.
Apprenticeship Maryland has also established partnerships with larger employers, such as the National Security Agency (NSA), the largest employer of people with world language skills. This year, the NSA signed on to become an employer partner and launch a program for students to become world language analysts. Through this program, apprentices pursue a field of their choosing - such as engineering or information technology - while also specializing in a world language. The NSA will pay for most of the student’s related coursework as they study for a baccalaureate degree, with the expectation that the student will return to the NSA for full-time employment upon completion of their degree. The NSA plans to sponsor ten students in the first year of the program, with the goal of hiring 25 new apprentices every year.
As Apprenticeship Maryland scales in districts across the state, these strong connections to education, whether at high school CTE programs or postsecondary institutions, are critical in building youth apprenticeships that meet workforce needs while also equipping students with work-based learning experiences and creating pathways to and through college. As Marquita Friday, Director of Career Programs for the Maryland State Department of Education points out, “Apprenticeship Maryland’s goal is not to give students a choice between apprenticeship and college, but rather a choice of apprenticeship and college.”
Click here to read the most recent PAYA Network Feature on Youth ApprenticeshipNH, a pilot program in New Hampshire. To learn more about the rest of the PAYA Network and its members, click here. To stay up to date on the activities of the PAYA Grantees and Network, visit www.newamerica.org/paya or stay connected to the initiative’s progress by following the #PAYA hashtag on Twitter at @NewAmericaEd.