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Encyclopedia > Apprentice
If you're looking for the TV show, see The Apprentice.

Apprenticeships form a traditional method of training a new generation of skilled crafts practitioners. Apprentices (or in early modern usage "prentices") built their careers from apprenticeships.


The system of apprenticeship first developed in the later Middle Ages and came to be supervised by guilds and town governments. A craft master was entitled to employ young people as an inexpensive form of labour in exchange for providing formal training in the craft. Most apprentices were males, but female apprentices can be found in a number of crafts associated with embroidery, silk_weaving etc. Apprentices were young (usually about fourteen to twenty_one years of age), unmarried and would live in the household of a master craftsman. Most apprentices aspired to becoming craft masters on completion of their contract (usually a term of seven years), but some would spend time as a journeyman and a significant proportion would never acquire their own workshop. In early modern England 'parish' apprenticeships under the Poor Law came to be used as a way of providing for poor children of both sexes alongside the regular system of apprenticeships, which tended to provide for boys from slightly more affluent backgrounds.


Subsequently governmental regulation and the licensing of polytechnics and their ilk formalised and bureaucratised the details of apprenticeship, which still survives in attenuated form.


Universities still echo apprenticeship schemes in their production of scholars: bachelors are promoted to masters and then produce a thesis under the oversight of a supervisor before the corporate body of the university recognises the reaching of the standard of a doctorate. The modern concept of internship is also analogous.


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