HANOVER, Md. – Maryland has a world-class transportation network built and maintained by countless employees who developed their skills in apprentice programs, internships and trade schools. At a Skilled Trades Partnering event Thursday hosted by the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), Secretary James F. Ports, Jr., told representatives of community colleges, trade schools and high school vocational programs that their institutions are essential in providing the skilled labor for MDOT’s future.
Today, Secretary Ports said, MDOT has hundreds of skilled worker positions available for mechanics, electricians, carpenters, masons, plumbers, HVAC technicians, aircraft service workers and others. There are more openings at MDOT than people to fill them, he said.
“I know the importance of our skilled trades, and I know it’s possible to begin in a skilled trades position and work your way up,” Secretary Ports said. “In all honesty, it’s been my personal mission to make connections and build partnerships with skilled trades educators to grow the next generation of MDOT employees.”
The Skilled Trades Partnering event, held at MDOT Headquarters in Hanover, was an opportunity for MDOT to work with organizations involved in workforce development to connect and share ideas on how to partner to place students into MDOT positions. Secretary Ports appealed to institutions to focus on training young men and women to meet the growing demand at MDOT, and help them discover careers with competitive salaries and benefits that include health coverage, retirement, paid leave, tuition reimbursement and more.
Secretary Ports said trends affecting agencies and industries across the country – including turnover, early retirement, increased competition and the “great resignation” spurred by the pandemic – have increased the need to recruit and train new workers.
“We’re ready to do our part to build a productive skilled trades workforce by working with all of you to bridge the skilled trades gap,” Secretary Ports said. “Let’s work together to help you grow your business, increase enrollment and get more young adults interested in skilled trades.”
MDOT has a number of existing apprentice and internship programs, including the MDOT Fellows Program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and the Morgan State University Graduate School Internship Program. See more about those two programs here. In addition, MDOT State Highway Administration operates a student internship program in fields from engineering and construction to data analysis and environmental science, and each summer MDOT Maryland Aviation Administration hosts a paid Summer Youth Initiative internship for Baltimore youth at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
For information on career opportunities across MDOT’s business units, including skilled trades, engineering, IT and entry-level positions, go to the MDOT Careers page, at mdot.maryland.gov/tso/pages/Index.aspx?PageId=3.
Organizations wanting to discuss potential apprentice and internship partnerships may contact MDOT Human Resources Director Judy Slater at MDOTSkilledTrades@mdot.maryland.gov.
“I’ve always been a big believer in apprenticeship programs and internships to cultivate tomorrow’s workforce,” said Secretary Ports, who shared his own story of a career that began in the trades as a steamfitter and gasfitter with BGE, and how that experience laid a foundation that served him in positions at the local, state and federal levels.
The secretary touted success stories of several other MDOT employees who started with internships or trade programs and have launched successful careers – from the skilled MDOT Maryland Transit Administration bus repairman who started as a high school office intern, to the college student who entered a construction internship and is now executive director of the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA).
That MDTA Executive Director is Will Pines, who was a University of Maryland student in 2003 when he accepted an internship with MDOT SHA and worked on a highway construction project. Eighteen years later, he was named to the top position at MDTA, guiding an agency with an annual budget of more than $380 million and a $2.6 billion six-year capital program.
“That internship was a tremendous experience, and really gave me insight to what I wanted to do, and what I could accomplish,” said Executive Director Pines. “The work was interesting, challenging and really important – and that’s what I wanted in a career.”
Secretary Ports said that story, and his own work experience, are just two of many examples of Marylanders who have found rewarding careers while improving their lives, their families and their communities.
“Whether you’re representing a trade school, community college, high school with vocational education, or other areas of workforce development, MDOT wants you to be a part of our team,” Secretary Ports told those in attendance. “Quite simply, once you train them, we hope to hire them.”