Guest blog: Investing in the future workforce through apprenticeships

Blog post by Kelly M. Schulz

Kelly M. Schulz brings a wealth of knowledge to the Maryland Department of Commerce from her years of experience working in the government, in the private sector and as a small business owner. She had previously served as the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) since her confirmation in February 2015 and is also a former member of the Maryland House of Delegates. She was appointed Secretary of the Maryland Department of Commerce in January 2019.

 

At the Maryland Department of Commerce, we know that many Maryland businesses are in need of skilled workers to fill their jobs. In fact, companies all over the country are facing a workforce shortage with 7.3 million unfilled jobs but only 5.9 million people looking for work, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. 

This has lead to fierce competition for qualified and experienced employees. But to get those jobs, young people and others looking to join the workforce often need the skills that come from work experience and on-the-job training—it’s a Catch-22. 

In Maryland, Governor Hogan and his administration are bridging that gap by increasing apprenticeships across the state. We’re providing job seekers with valuable, hands-on training that that lets them earn while they learn, and we’re connecting businesses with an eager and dedicated pool of talent. 

Before becoming Secretary of Commerce, I spent four years leading the Maryland Department of Labor and helped increase the number of apprenticeships to more than 10,000 across the state last yearthe most since 2008 and a number the department expects to reach again this year. 

We also launched a youth-focused program, Apprenticeship Maryland, in 2015 as a partnership between Labor, Commerce and the Maryland State Department of Education. What began as a pilot program in Frederick and Washington counties has now expanded to nine counties across the state and connected high-school students to employers in industries including manufacturing, construction, communications, automotive repair and more.  

In July, Maryland was awarded a $2.8 million federal grant to expand registered apprenticeship programs, the third such grant the state has received from the U.S. Department of Labor since 2016. Also that month, Apprenticeship Maryland added 15 new employers in industries including manufacturing, restaurants, electrical contracting, beauty services, agricultural products and cybersecurity.  

Not only are youth apprentices being guided through some of their first work experiences while they are still finishing high school, but they’re getting a chance to “test the waters” in these industries and to explore where—and how—they want to spend their careers. Former apprentices tell us the experience has helped them develop new skills and take on new challenges. 

Employers tell us that apprenticeship programs not only draw enthusiastic applicants who are ready to learn and work, but help them retain these talented workers by presenting them with a career path and opportunities for advancement. It’s an investment in the future of their business as well as in the future of Maryland’s workforce. 

At Commerce we believe that the purpose of economic development is not just to spur business growth, increase prosperity, and create jobs, but to use those accomplishments to improve the lives of all of our citizens. This means helping people find their own purpose and giving them the tools to build a better life for themselves and their families.  

Maryland’s apprenticeship programs are helping our businesses grow and our residents build those better lives. We’re grateful to all of our business partners, and encourage every Maryland company to consider investing in the state’s future workforce by sponsoring apprenticeships. 

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