How Modern Apprenticeships have Grown up

The concept of apprenticeship in the UK dates back to the 12th century and this tradition of keeping apprentices became really popular by the 14th century.

Early History

The Guilds Master Craftsman was the sole decision making authority on the subject of apprentices and the parents of minor children would lease with him for the apprenticeship program. Back then, the apprenticeship program used to range from 5 to 9 years and usually children were absorbed into this program from the age 14. The contract between the parent and the Master Guilds Craftsman used to be recorded in an indenture and the parents used to pay a premium price for the same.

In the year 1563, an important law was passed which regulated the apprenticeship system and forbade any person from practising a trade or craft without undergoing the 7-year apprenticeship program under a master.

In the 16th Century, the Elizabethan Poor Law was passed which utilised the apprenticeship program as a way of providing poor and orphaned kids with a good source of income. The apprenticeship programs for the economically challenged kids came to be known as Parish Apprenticeships and these could be willingly created with the assent of two Justice of Peace.

In the years, preceding the industrial revolution, the compulsory apprenticeship program was abolished and the Statute of the same was not applied to newly emerging trades.

The Transitional Phase

Though the concept of the premium fee was somewhat suppressed in the 16th century it again flared up some decades later. With the passage of time (by the 17th century) the practice of paying premiums was again revived and by 1768 a formal payment structure by instalment was made legal. This was due to the fact that many parents and guardians felt pressurised to pay the huge fee.

The concept of apprenticeship revolved around the fact that technical training would be provided by the Master Craftsmen in return for the labour put in by the Apprentice. However, in most places it was the unwritten norm to pay apprentices a small amount of money for personal expenses. By the 18th century, it became a regular practice to pay the apprentice a decent wage in the latter years of the apprenticeship program. This system was known as ‘Colting’ or ‘Half Pay System’ and the pay was made to the guardian or parent on a monthly or weekly basis. Most apprentices used to return to their respective homes for the weekend.

The base of the apprenticeship program was the desire to avoid any shortage of skill in the industry and it was with this aim that the UK Industry Training Board (ITB) set up the 1964 Act. The goal of this act was to supply training at all levels and enhance the quality of the same with fair cost sharing amongst employees. The ITB passed many regulations and created many laws which led to the formalisation and enhancement of what was till now an entirely haphazard training program. The ITBs also opened their own training centres and the mid-1970’s showed an upsurge in the number of youngsters opting for apprenticeship programs.

Since the year 1950 and onwards, the higher technological industry sector in the UK (for example Aerospace, Telecommunications, Automotive etc.) trained their engineers and technicians through an indentured learning process which ranged between 4 to 6 years. 4 major kinds of trained apprenticeship programs existed; craft, technicians, higher technician and graduate. The 1950 to 1970 framework of apprenticeship was constructed to guide the youngsters towards a substitute path of achieving their A levels and get qualifications of minimum Level 4 NVQ (national vocational qualification) along with skill development. By 1980, the apprenticeship route became difficult to navigate with most companies shutting down their training programs. To become a chartered engineer via this route one has to undergo at least 12 years of academic and vocational training.

Modern Apprenticeship Programs in the UK

In the year 1994, the UK Government announced the Modern Apprenticeship program and this has now evolved to become the Sector Skill Council. There were a few typical features of the National Apprenticeship Service.

  • A knowledge base element which was certified through a technical certificate.
  • A competence based element that was certified through a NVQ
  • A set of functional skills with minimum levels in Maths, IT, and English
  • ERR (Employment Rights and Response system) that showed whether apprenticeship had full cognizance of the rights and responsibilities of working in a specific company.

As of the year 2016, there are more than 200 apprenticeship frameworks. The service, manufacturing and technical sectors now offer this scheme. Since 2008, a ‘Creative Apprenticeship program’ was also introduced by the Sectors Skill Council. The UK Department of Education stated that “Apprenticeship is a part of the formal education system of the UK”. Currently, employers have an employment contract with apprentices but the off job training is funded completely by the State.

To learn more opportunities about apprenticeship program, join our Youth Empowerment Exhibition Through Skills and Education


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