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A brief history of apprenticeships

Apprenticeships in Construction

The first national apprenticeship system of training was introduced in 1563 by the Statute of Artificers; a scheme that saw boys as young as 10 spend seven years learning a craft under the guidance of their ‘master’, and it was forbidden for anyone to work in a specific trade or craft without first completing their time as an apprentice. Although apprenticeships waned in the 1800’s in the factory environment, they did remain popular amongst the professions and by the early 1900’s apprenticeships had spread to newer industries such as engineering, shipbuilding, plumbing and electrical work. It is thought that at this time approximately 340,000 young boys were in apprenticeships and this continued to rise after World War II with a third of boys leaving school at 16 to become an apprentice in their chosen field.

The introduction of Modern Apprenticeships

In 1993, the Modern Apprenticeship was introduced. There had been little reform in the apprenticeship scheme until this time and employers felt that the scheme was more dependent on time served as opposed to focusing on the needs of the industry. The Modern Apprenticeship was no longer time-dependant and focused solely on the qualification sought; NVQ Level 3. By 2004, another rebranding of the scheme took place; age limits were removed, and schemes for younger children aged between 14-16 were introduced into schools.

Apprenticeships today

Apprenticeships have seen many changes since the introduction of the Modern Apprenticeship in 1993. There are now four levels of apprenticeship, and they can take from 1-5 years to complete. Employers can choose to either provide training themselves or use an outsourced training provider, and all apprentices have to receive 20% off-the-job training. For many that may involve theory-based work at a college or training provider to count towards their apprenticeship and must be conducted during the apprentices normal working hours, which equates to one day a week. Employers have to pay their apprentices the minimum wage as outlined by the Government, and they are entitled to 20 days paid holiday as well as Bank holidays. There are over 280 different types of apprenticeships ranging from graphic design to childcare. The largest UK apprenticeship programme is offered by the Army with 95% of its new recruits being apprentices. Traditionally, apprenticeships have been funded by the Government, and the level of funding received is dependant on the age of the apprentice. Today that has changed with the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in April 2017 which saw larger companies footing part of the bill.

The Apprenticeship Levy and Construction

The construction industry has been a bit slow in picking up the pace when it comes to the new Levy system. Many employers have found the new system complicated and a red tape minefield. But construction needs apprentices now more than ever to contend with the skills gap that is looming. Apprentices are proven to earn more throughout their lifetime than their university-educated peers, and some areas of construction qualified apprentices see them earning more than dentists, accountants and midwives. The benefits to construction companies of hiring apprentices are huge. They are trained to work the way that a company likes; adopting its techniques, work ethics and culture. Many construction apprentices are still with the companies they trained with, holding senior management positions, and are well-placed to help with each new intake of apprentices. Homegrown talent is what a modern-day apprenticeship is all about. Take an eager and enthusiastic youngster and nurture and mentor them into the employee your company wants. The Government is investing in STEM subjects and ‘T’ Levels to get our children enthusiastic about engineering and construction, so we need to make sure that the apprenticeships are there for them ready to take up when they leave school.