Youth Apprenticeships: Good for Students and Good for Business

A Talbot County Public Schools student participates in an automotive apprenticeship program that includes classroom instruction as well as experience in an automotive shop. Photo by Mike Morgan.

The term “apprenticeship” may sound old-fashioned, but more and more young people are embracing the idea of getting paid while they learn.

The Talbot County Youth Apprenticeship Program gives students the opportunity to earn a fair wage while also receiving hands-on training. Youth apprentices gain valuable job skills and often have an advantage when seeking employment after high school.  What’s more, apprenticeships often give students an opportunity to evaluate career options before they invest in higher education.

The program is a win for business owners, too.  Apprenticeships offer a valuable tool for developing the highly-skilled workforce they need to be competitive in today’s marketplace.

Elizabeth Wilburt from Easton High School recently completed an apprenticeship in technology with Choptank Transport. She is planning to study computer science in college.

A Pipeline to Workers

“Our program has produced talented, dedicated employees who graduate ready to work,” says Jodie Colombo, school-to-career facilitator for Talbot County Public Schools. “Youth apprenticeships are a great way to develop a pipeline of talented, highly-skilled workers to help businesses grow.”

The Talbot County program is part of the Maryland Department of Labor’s Apprenticeship Maryland Program.  It provides an opportunity for businesses to introduce students to in-demand careers.

Students can start as early as the summer before their junior year and continue to graduation. The students work a minimum of 450 hours while receiving related educational training through their school and earning a wage.

Youth apprentices gain valuable job skills and often have an advantage when seeking employment after high school. Youth apprentices can also get credit toward adult apprenticeships as well.

Talbot County Public Schools students participate in a culinary class. Students have completed successful culinary apprenticeships with local businesses such as The Inn at Perry Cabin. Photo by Mike Morgan.

The Talbot County program, which began in 2018, has graduated eight students to date. Graduates are awarded a certificate in addition to their diploma. Recent graduates completed apprenticeships at companies such as Tidewater Physical Therapy, Campbell’s Boat Yard, iFrog Marketing Solutions, The Whalen Company, and Inn at Perry Cabin.

The program pairs local employers with students who want to “earn while they learn.” Juniors and seniors are eligible to work in career track occupations, such as culinary arts, carpentry, technology, and the medical field, while earning both a fair wage and credits that count toward graduation.

An Apprentice Shines at Perry Cabin

The Career and Technology Education Culinary Program at Easton High School is especially noteworthy. It is one of four secondary schools in the country to achieve exemplary status from the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation Accrediting Commission (ACFEFAC). Some students go on to culinary schools while others immediately enter the workforce.

“The Inn at Perry Cabin is proud to have hired one full-time apprentice from the program and has one additional student starting in August,” says Michael Hoffmann, managing director Perry Cabin Resorts & Golf. “Our executive chef, Gregory James, is on the apprenticeship advisory committee and has been educating the students about culinary and hospitality industry through webinars.”

Hoffmann speaks highly of his first apprentice.

“Elmer, a former apprentice and now full-time employee, has been a pure joy,” Hoffmann says. “His success is nothing short of phenomenal. Elmer has grown into one of our line leaders and shows management potential. He has an amazing can do attitude and is willing to tackle any project we put in front of him.”

Businesses interested in exploring the apprenticeship program start the process by applying online. Once the initial application is accepted, a representative from the Maryland Department of Labor will visit the business and make a recommendation to the Maryland Apprenticeship Training Council.

When a business is approved, Colombo works with them to develop a student work plan, recruits potential candidates, and ensures students meet both school and industry requirements.

Talbot County Public Schools is currently accepting applications for the fall semester. To learn more about the program, contact Colombo at 410-490-4763 or