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Apprenticeships 100 years ago

Posted by | 17th February 2016 | Across Scotland, Apprenticeship News, Scottish Apprenticeship Week, Uncategorized


Apprenticeships 100 years ago

Throughout time, employers have always considered apprenticeships to be a beneficial method of training. 100 years ago, apprenticeships were predominantly centred around artisan trades – this changed during the 20th century as employer growth occurred and newer industries evolved such as engineering and shipbuilding.

In 2014, the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) commissioned Professor of History at the University of Lincoln, Krista Cowman, to study historical records and prepare an overview of early 20th Century apprenticeships.

There were notable differences apprentices faced 100 years ago:

  • Apprentices performing below par, according to their bosses, could actually be summoned to appear in court! This included turning up to work late, being ‘idle’ in the workplace or just having a bad attitude. The maximum punishment was three months imprisonment.Today, apprentices in Scotland receive fantastic support and representation from the newly formed National Society of Apprentices who aim to represent apprentices and help make apprenticeships in Scotland the best they can be.
  • Whilst employers 100 years ago saw the value in training their apprentices, funding arrangements were a lot different from what we see today. Apprentices were ‘indentured’, meaning they were legally required to work for an employer for a number of years and they also had to pay a fee to their employer to cover the cost of training and tools.Government funding today helps both employers and apprentices with the burden of training costs. Tools and uniform are generally supplied nowadays as well to ensure apprentices have all they need to make a positive start in their newly chosen career.
  • The majority of young people entering apprenticeships were aged 15-17 and women only made up 22% of apprentices!
  • Engineering and Construction featured prominently as the most popular types of apprenticeships 100 years ago. Similarly today these two sectors remain as popular as ever, however sectors are now more varied and new apprenticeship frameworks are developed year on year.

See the table below for a comparison of the top 5 most popular apprenticeships now and then based on Professor Cowman’s research and Apprenticeships in Scotland’s website analytical information.


What we can see from this research is that industries and trades have certainly evolved over the past 100 years. Despite this, the need for skilled labour is still as relevant today as it was back then. With ever-growing employer support and government backing, apprenticeships remain today a vital cog in the UK economy.

Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2016 will take place from 29th February – 4th March and will be a fantastic time to highlight the ongoing progress as well as the prominence of apprenticeships in Scotland. We will be launching our new service the ‘APlayer’ during Scottish Apprenticeship Week which is a video channel featuring apprenticeship related video content from all sectors. Check back in on February 29th to see it live in action!

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