A business is always more successful when it has good employees to rely on, which is why Maryland residents and employers are taking additional steps to improve the local workforce.
With help from the Maryland Apprenticeship and Training Program (MATP), adults of all ages are gaining experience and learning skilled trades in the automotive, electrical, manufacturing, cybersecurity, and biotechnology industries, among others. While gaining skills and credentials on the job, apprentices are also paid a progressive wage as their skills increase, and are more likely to start out with a $50,000 salary after graduating from the program.
According to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (DLLR), the number of registered apprentices has increased by nearly 20 percent over the past four years. Before being appointed to lead Maryland Commerce, Secretary Kelly Schulz led DLLR and helped grow the number of apprentices to more than 10,000 across the state—the highest amount since 2008.
“Reaching 10,000 apprentices is an achievement that has only happened twice in the history of the program,” said Secretary Schulz. “I’m proud to see so many Marylanders expand their skillsets and I look forward to seeing more businesses take on apprentices throughout the state.”
High school juniors and seniors are also joining the apprentice bandwagon. The youth Apprenticeship Maryland program was founded in 2015 as a partnership between the Maryland Department of Labor, Maryland Commerce, and Maryland State Department of Education. It originally began as a pilot program in Frederick and Washington counties, with help from the county public school systems and local employers. Since then, the program has launched statewide and has quickly gained traction.
In 2018, Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford called to expand apprenticeship opportunities throughout Maryland, with Howard and Dorchester counties adding the program soon after. So far in 2019, three new counties have adopted the apprenticeship program—Talbot, Queen Anne’s, and most recently, Kent.
At Dynamic Automotive, an industry leader in automotive repair, the team was interested in creating its own apprentice program but didn’t have a plan ready to roll out, so it was the perfect match when the company found out about the state’s training programs. Over the years, the company has worked with both youth apprentices and registered apprentices.
“Using Maryland’s program was really easy to get started and it brought a lot of attention to our business,” said Dwayne Myers, managing partner. “We worked with the local career and technology center and invited students to our Urbana shop to tour the facility and talk about what it’s like to be a technician. We received six applications that week.”
Dwayne tells us that apprenticeships allow Dynamic Automotive to continuously train and promote from within, which not only improves the company’s culture, but also grows the entire business. The company – which celebrates its 25th anniversary next year – is currently expanding its original location in New Market.
By focusing on the internal team, Dynamic gives workers a sense of direction and a career path, which ultimately helps the company with retaining talented employees. The proof is in the numbers—each of Dynamic’s four Frederick County locations are all led by team members who have been with the company for more than 10 years, and started in either administrative or technician roles. Dwayne also joined Dynamic Automotive in 1997 as a technician and is now one of the owners of the company, as well as an ambassador for the state’s apprenticeship programs.
“We’re making an investment in our future. We’re going to be able to expand organically and through new locations,” said Dwayne. “This is why it works, and this is how you get millennials engaged. It really makes a difference.”
For Beacon Grace, a logistics and supply chain solutions company, hiring a youth apprentice led to a full-time position for one local Washington County Technical High student. After the Hagerstown business found out about the state’s apprenticeship program, they soon brought Casey Kelly on the team as the company’s first apprentice, and now have plans to hire additional apprentices in the future.
“Because of Apprenticeship Maryland, we were able to see Casey's abilities and see that he was a fit for the company before we hired him full-time,” said Becky Willard, owner and CEO of Beacon Grace. “It was obvious that he was going to be an employee that could continue to learn and grow here at Beacon Grace.”
When Casey found out about the opportunity through his high school, he sent in an application without knowing much about the program. He was hired as a business system analyst apprentice, where he performed research, project analysis, and supported business operations and client projects. Now, not only has he been hired full-time at Beacon Grace, but he is also a program ambassador that shares his positive experience with other interested students.
“Looking back, I'm really happy I decided to participate,” said Casey. “I really didn't have much job or work experience beforehand. The program gives you a chance to get that experience, learn a valuable skill, and take on new challenges.”