(TNS) — The FirstEnergy Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the energy utility firm that owns Potomac Edison, donated $15,000 to a new apprenticeship program that will be piloted in Frederick and Washington counties, FirstEnergy announced Wednesday.

The Apprenticeship Maryland program will pair high school students with local businesses that have a focus on STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — and manufacturing jobs, according to a news release.

The aim of the program is to help students get more in-depth work experience and connect them with an employer they may stay with after high school.

Half the grant, or $7,500, will fund apprenticeships in Frederick County; the other for apprenticeships in Washington County, according to Todd Meyers, a spokesman for FirstEnergy. Students will be paid.

The money will fund the salaries of two students in each county, Meyers said.

"Apprenticeship Maryland promises to make Maryland a better place to find and hire skilled workers, and we're pleased to provide this support," James A. Sears, FirstEnergy's president of Maryland operations, said in a statement.

The Frederick County pilot program will include the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, the state Department of Commerce, the State Department of Education and Frederick County Public Schools.

"This generous donation will go a long way in helping area small businesses fund the hiring of youth apprentices," state Labor Secretary Kelly Schulz said in a statement.

©2016 The Frederick News-Post (Frederick, Md.), distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.