31 Jul 2012

What is an Apprenticeship? (Part 1)

Category:
  • Apprenticeships

In 2012 the word Apprenticeship means different things to different people.

When I worked in a college as an engineering tutor we used to call them Modern Apprenticeship Schemes to differentiate them from what used to be the stock reply to the question “What is an apprenticeship?”

What was an Apprenticeship?

apprentice contractThe word Apprentice can be traced back to being used in England in Medieval times. In 1201 when you were old enough to work you could seek a job common to the area where you lived. So in Suffolk for example you could be a farm hand or fishing boat support hand  etc. OR you could seek out one of the Guilds and learn a skill / trade that would give you the opportunity to travel and work in places of the country where that skill was required. Medieval England had been shown by the invading French how to properly build using stone as a material instead of the wood previously used. One of the up and coming Guilds was the Masons and young gifted boys were eager to gain a position to learn skills that would pay them eventually some of the highest wages available to workers. The original deal was that while you were learning the trade (which took several years) you were fed and clothed and received a small allowance of money to perhaps send home or spend in the tavern on the various things offered.

Apprentices traditionally then started on very poor pay with the prospect of great rewards later after the trade they had learned had been Mastered. This is where the term Master Builder came from. Usually only Cities had use for Masons and the craftsmen formed Guilds which were early Trade related Unions of workers which represented them to employers. I hope you can begin to see how modern exam boards acquired appropriate names like ‘City & Guilds’ as these were the historical bodies that often assessed how well the apprentices had learned their craft. Even then there were good and bad Masters (who taught apprentices) and in the 1700’s a document formalising the arrangements was brought in called an indenture. Two identical copies of the same form of agreement were drawn up on the same piece of paper which was then hand torn in half. One half was kept by the Master and the other was kept by the Apprentice. The tear was unique of course and verified the authenticity of the document. When the apprenticeship was over the apprentice was given both copies which coined the phrase that an apprentice that had successfully completed his studies had received his indentures. So ends the first lesson of how Apprenticeships were originally started. If you think that all this history has long been abandoned then think about The Masons which is an organisation of mutual benefit for its members whose origins spring directly from these ancient times and is very much in existence today in the UK.

What is an apprenticeship?

So how do these modern apprenticeships differ from the deeply embedded in history described above? Well the modern apprentice is aged 16 to 24 years of age and receives dual support. The apprentice's wages still come from the company that agrees to take them on, and secondly the government provides the company with a grant that helps to provide the technical education (usually now ‘work based learning’ where attendance at a college of place of further education is limited to a few hours each week rather than the old school hours and terms) which is part and parcel of learning any of the modern day skills that the country needs young people to learn.

In the old days 100% of apprentices were boys but now there are a large number female entrants to the apprenticeship route of learning a trade / skills. Tied to the scheme is a commitment to obtaining a Competency or Theoretical Knowledge Certificate or Diploma which is proof that the Apprentice is up to an Industry agreed standard .

How do you get an Apprenticeship?

college connectionsIn days now long gone they were advertised at places of employment and in the local press etc. and you applied for one just like you would for any other job vacancy. Apprenticeships were sort of forgotten and did not exist anywhere for many years having fallen from favour and replaced by other schemes. These days the colleges receive funding from the government and together with training companies in the private and public sector they recruit sometimes directly and sometimes via organisations like College Connections. They interview 16-24 year olds, advise and then select suitable candidates for the various apprenticeship schemes. Look on the internet for providers of Apprenticeship schemes or go to your local college or Career Advice Service. You should be able to find out the address from the Direct Gov web site.

For general help in planning your future you will find this web site helpful:

https://nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk/Pages/Home.aspx

and for specific help with apprenticeships:

http://apprenticeships.org.uk/Be-An-Apprentice/Applying.aspx

In either case you will have made a step towards securing your plan for your future career.

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