The learning of a trade through apprenticeship, in which a young person was placed with and formally bound to a master, has roots way back in medieval times. By the 16th century it was generally accepted as a means of providing technical training to boys and a very few girls in a wide range of occupations.
Before the introduction of this legislation, apprenticeships were regulated by the guilds of trades and craftsmen.
An apprentice, often starting as young as 10 or 12, would learn his trade over a period of years — often seven, but it could be longer or shorter than this — with his master being responsible for his board, lodging and clothing as well as teaching.
The 1563 Act was abolished in 1814, as the popularity of apprenticeships waned “due to conditions in factories and exploitation of young apprentices”, according to a House of Commons research paper from 2009.
Apprenticeships in certain trades, particularly those which required practical skills, remained popular in subsequent decades.
There were around 340,000 apprentices per year in the early twentieth century, according to an Institute of Directors (IoD) policy paper from 2003.
By the mid-1960s — “the high water mark for apprenticeship in Britain” according to the IoD — roughly 35 per cent of male school leavers aged 15 to 17 went on to do an apprenticeship.
Did you or family do an apprenticeship at the Consett Steelworks?
Did you teach the apprentices?
The History of the Consett Steelworks project team would be delighted to learn about your experiences, hear your stories and see your pictures
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