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HCC Apprenticeships – Essential workers in challenging times

At a time of career upheaval as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Howard Community College’s apprentices are still on the job.

The college has three apprenticeship programs: construction management, information technology and heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR). All three of these fields are essential in Maryland during the pandemic, explained Adrienne Summers, director of apprenticeships and workforce innovation.

“Apprentices with employers are still getting a paycheck, still working, and still getting the on-the-job experience, which is what is needed in an apprenticeship program,” she said. “While there may be some changes as far as the way that business is being done or the way that processes and routines were done prior to COVID-19, it hasn’t really changed drastically.”

For example, construction managers are limiting the number of workers on any given site to comply with social distancing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And one of the construction management apprentices working on a project in Pennsylvania moved to a project in Maryland because construction is not deemed essential in Pennsylvania, she said.

An apprenticeship is an “earn while you learn” model that combines classroom instruction with on-the-job training. Traditional apprentices complete 2,000 hours of on-the-job training per year, a minimum of 144 hours of related instruction per year, and they earn a progressive wage.

“Here’s an opportunity for an employer to start an employee literally from the ground up and mold and shape that employee for their business, their culture and their environment,” Summers said. “The employer is paying the tuition and expenses, as well as giving apprentices that on-the-job training and a progressive wage. And typically, that apprentice is going to be more loyal to that company. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

HCC apprenticeship programs are based on in-demand fields in the Washington, D.C./Baltimore region. This summer, the college will launch its newest apprenticeship program: biomedical engineering technician (BMET). BMETs install, maintain and repair medical equipment used in hospitals, clinics, and other patient care locations.

For more information about HCC apprenticeship programs, visit

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