Celebrating National Apprenticeship Week in QAC: Local Youth Workforce Development

Every November, National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) celebrates the success and value of apprenticeships. This year’s NAW, held on November 13-19, 2023, will be the ninth annual celebration. The 2023 NAW theme is “Registered Apprenticeship: Superhighway to Good Jobs,” and the U.S. Department of Labor notes that this is to “reflect the prominence that Registered Apprenticeship has received as a proven and industry-driven training model that expedites the pathway into good jobs and improves diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) in the workplace.”

In recognition of National Apprenticeship Week, Queen Anne’s County Economic and Tourism Development is highlighting our efforts to develop our local workforce through apprenticeships. Queen Anne’s County Economic and Tourism Development staff coordinates apprenticeships in several fields, including culinary, engineering, technology, and trades in partnership with Queen Anne’s County Public Schools and our local businesses. We understand the advantages of apprenticeships, and it is our mission to support opportunities for on-the-job training and experiences by connecting local businesses with the community’s youth workforce. That’s why we are joining the 2023 NAW celebration to plan special events in Queen Anne’s County and recognize the hard work of local apprentices and their host organizations.

Our special NAW activities in Queen Anne’s County will begin on Monday, November 13th, and continue through Friday, November 19th. At the start of the week, the Queen Anne’s County Economic and Tourism Development team will visit apprentices at their work sites to present them with participation certificates and learn more about their apprenticeship experiences.

On Tuesday, November 14th, from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Kent Island Library, we will host an information session about the Junior Achievement of the Eastern Shore Inspire Program. Businesses will attend and learn the benefits of participating in the JA Inspire annual interactive career fair for eighth-grade students. Throughout National Apprenticeship Week, students at Queen Anne’s County High School and Kent Island High School will watch videos on youth apprenticeships to learn more about different career paths. The rest of the week will include highlights and additional information on our social media accounts. Queen Anne’s County businesses, local responders, military, and Chesapeake College staff will visit county schools throughout the week to showcase exciting career opportunities in our community.

According to Betsy Ricketts, a career coach at Queen Anne’s County High School, an apprenticeship bridges the gap between academic learning and workplace skills. “An apprenticeship is not just a valuable opportunity for high school students to gain hands-on experience, but [it is] a crucial stepping stone towards building a successful career,” Ricketts explains. “It provides an opportunity with a unique blend of practical skills, mentorship, and exposure that empowers them to thrive.”

The beneficial impact on apprentices is clear, but it can also be rewarding for the participating businesses.

Chef Kurt Peter, owner of Chesapeake Chef Service (CCS), has been a registered apprenticeship sponsor through Maryland for the last two years. He claims that his team feels like they’re doing their part to help the youth and guide them in the culinary industry by offering the opportunity for apprenticeships. “There’s value for both parties; we get to educate and teach someone at the ground level and mold them into what we need to fill positions, which also allows us to fill our kitchens with younger individuals,” explains Peter. “And it gives them different aspects of training because we have a ton of different positions within our organization that an apprentice can move into.”

During an apprenticeship, students not only gain work experience but can also get a glimpse of a business’s inner workings. Chef Peter says apprenticeship experiences shine a light on what his business does and are valuable opportunities for the younger generation to see things first-hand. His apprentices are able to work for a couple of months, receive school credit, and figure out if they enjoy the hospitality industry to pursue it as a full-time career.

Looking back at Chef Peter’s previous CCS apprentices, he says that most have continued working in the industry. He believes there is a lot of opportunity for these apprentices to thrive in Queen Anne’s County, especially for those interested in hospitality.

Peter recommends that other businesses should certainly consider taking on apprentices since they are already learning the foundational education and skills needed in the classroom before starting their apprenticeship, and it can enhance a business owner’s team.

Prospective employers do need to understand what is expected of their team as role models, leaders, and mentors for young talent. “You’re not starting someone from the ground up. You’re getting someone who already has a base knowledge,” Chef Peter says. “But, you still have to be on board and want to educate and guide them.”

Queen Anne’s County Public Schools recently stood up two career centers, one in each high school, utilizing $500,000 in Rural Maryland Economic Development Funds provided by Maryland Department of Commerce and Upper Shore Regional Council.  This funding also supported hiring a Career Coach for each school and equipment and materials necessary to provide dedicated career awareness, guidance and career connections for students including internship and apprenticeship opportunities.

Karen Hesson, a career coach at Kent Island High School, spoke on the opportunities apprenticeships provide for students to shape their future careers. She notes, “So many career paths work on an apprentice structure that we are able to begin at the high school level. Gaining skills that will be directly applied to the career paths students want to enter after graduation is creating a workforce that is years ahead than the traditional education programs can provide,” says Hesson. “I am happy we have made such an effort to bring this change to education and continue to provide support and diversity where Queen Anne’s County students deserve and need for more successful futures.”

Current youth apprenticeship opportunities are listed on the Queen Anne’s County Economic & Tourism Development website. If your business or organization is interested in joining our youth apprenticeship program, contact Connie Dean, Career Technology Liaison, at [email protected].



Categories: Press Release, Youth Career Development

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