By Wesley Brown
Capital News Service
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — An emergency bill would deaden the requirement that Maryland mortuary science students must complete the majority of their education prior to starting an apprenticeship.
House bill 106, a bipartisan effort from Delegates Susan Krebs, R-Carroll, and Joseline Peña-Melnyk, D-Prince George’s and Anne Arundel, would allow anyone enrolled in a mortuary science program the ability to begin an apprenticeship.
Under current law, mortuary science students must have completed at least two-thirds of their academic program with at least a 2.0 GPA in order to begin an apprenticeship program.
The Maryland House of Delegates voted on Feb. 27, 2020, to push through an emergency bill that would ease the restrictions on mortuary apprenticeships (Wesley Brown/Capital News Service)
An apprentice currently must complete at least 1,000 working hours under the direction of an apprentice sponsor in a licensed funeral establishment, according to a state report. Those hoping to become funeral directors must also take part in 20 funerals, while those aiming to become a mortician must participate in the embalming of 20 human bodies under supervision. These requirements would not change.
“We are having an issue where people can’t start their apprenticeship until they finish school,” Krebs said. There are clear benefits to students being able to gain work experience while learning, she said.
According to Mark Bailey of the Maryland Board of Morticians, there are 50 active mortician apprentices and 120 students enrolled in the state’s only certified program — at the Community College of Baltimore County, Catonsville.
The changes that this bill ushers in would hopefully raise the number of active apprentices from 50 to more than 100, Bailey said.
House bill 106 passed through the House of Delegates on Feb. 27 by a vote of 134-0. It has since crossed over to the Maryland Senate and been referred to the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. That committee has not yet voted on the measure. If passed, the emergency legislation would go into effect immediately.
As of May 2018, there were approximately 410 morticians, undertakers and funeral directors in the state of Maryland, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“This (bill) expands opportunities for students who are in mortuary science school,” said attorney Jim Doyle, representing the Maryland State Funeral Directors Association, at a Health and Government Operations Committee hearing on Feb. 4. “It allows them to earn money. It allows them to gain more experience.”
Doyle added that the requirement of completing two-thirds of the educational program before gaining field experience “deprives (students) of the opportunity to know if they like and want to actually be a funeral director.”
This bill would allow students to figure out their feelings toward the profession earlier, save time and money, as well as make money while in school, Doyle said.