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Refers to the period of service as a learner of a trade or handicraft. The apprentice, usually a boy at the beginning of his working life, was bound by a legal agreement to serve an employer for a fixed number of years during which the employer promised to instruct him. The system developed during the Middle Ages when guilds of craftsmen in particular trades established control of their trades by regulating the number of recruits and their training. The statute of Artificers of 1563 gave magistrates power to compel compliance with apprenticeships. At the end of their apprenticeships trainees became journeymen, fully skilled tradesmen. If they could afford to set up in business they became masters in their own right.

Apprenticeship in a wide variety of traditional skilled work continued in the second half of the 20th cent. However, challenges to such ‘training on the job’ combined with expanding provision of formal technical education led to a decline in traditional apprenticeship.

Subjects: History — Social Sciences.

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