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The history of apprenticeships

Apprenticeships have helped millions upon millions of people step forward in their careers in countless specialisms all across the world. In the five months between August 2017 and January 2018 alone there was an astounding 206,100 apprenticeship starts in the UK.

But how have apprenticeships developed into the platform for career advancement that we know and love today? Below we explore apprenticeships throughout the centuries.

Apprenticeships from the Middle Ages to 19th century

Apprenticeships can be traced as far back as the Middle Ages. During this time parents would send their children to live with host families in order to learn a craft or trade. These ‘apprenticeships’ would typically last anywhere between five and nine years.

This trend continued all the way through to the Tudor period, those providing apprenticeship training were referred to as ‘masters’ who would be put in charge of the welfare of an apprentice.

In 1563 the first official apprenticeship system was introduced in England; the new system outlined conditions in which an apprentice could work, as well as guidelines for ‘masters’ on how long an apprenticeship could last and how many could train at one time.

By the mid to late 18th century, the popularity of apprenticeships dropped dramatically due to conditions with factories, with many under the opinion that young apprentices were being exploited. Other professions, however, remained a popular option for apprentices, including shipbuilding, plumbing and electrical work.

20th century downturn

Popularity of these apprenticeships remained high all the way until the 1960s. However, this popularity quickly disintegrated following a report carried out by the Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employer’s Associations labelled apprenticeships as a ‘farce’.

This all changed however in 1993 when the very first modern apprenticeships were rolled out in the UK. The new scheme gave apprentices the right to earn a wage whilst training. By 1998, 250,000 people had entered into a modern apprenticeship.

21st century developments

The early 21st century saw yet another development as advanced apprenticeships were introduced. This was backed by the launch of the National Apprenticeship Service in 2009, which oversees country-wide apprenticeship delivery.

In 2015 the government pledged to create 3 million more apprenticeships by 2020. In order to help achieve this, April 2017 saw the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, which aims to ensure adequate funding is available to businesses wanting to hire an apprentice.

Apprenticeships are now more popular than ever before, with an ever-growing list of employers seeking apprentices in a variety of specialisms, it has never been a better time to start. Take a look at our current apprenticeship vacancies to take the first step into your dream career.

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