Apprenticeships have been around in one form or another since the 13th Century and gained popularity in the 1500s. A parent / guardian of a child would pay a craftsman to take on their son or daughter for as long as 9 years. In the 17th Century apprenticeships began to provide training for poorer, illegitimate and orphaned children.

Early modern apprenticeships were characterised as rigid, inflexible and ineffectively regulated.  Masters would create rules on who could enter service, how long they must serve until “acquiring the freedom of the company”, and what they could do during their terms.

In the museum we have one of many little gems on display – an example of an original apprenticeship certificate issued by The Worshipful Company of Glovers in 1688 (Reign of James II).  It states that Thomas Bennet had successfully served 7 years apprenticeship in all aspects of glove cutting and gloving generally.

Below is an extract from The Freeman’s Oath which John Dent and his sons had to take before they could obtain their freedom to trade in Worcester Chamber Order, 1698.

… Ye shall bear faith and froth to our sovereign King George The Third and to the Mayor of Worcester… You shall take no Apprentice for less time than seven years… in all things lawful and necessary to be done, you shall use and obey yourself to do as a true citizen.

Today apprenticeships have developed in many ways, from funded schemes which offer people the opportunity to gain the knowledge and skills required for employment, to voluntary internships.

The most radical apprenticeship must be in the British reality television series ‘The Apprentice’ which started in 2004. Young hopeful businessmen and women take part in tasks all hoping to impress, to be the lucky winner who receives an opportunity to work with businessman Sir Alan Sugar. The show recently changed its format, and the winning candidate in 2012 received a £250,000 investment in a business of the candidate’s creation, with Sir Alan as a 50% owner.

Not bad for a day’s work!

Sarah, Museum Curator