The history of apprenticeships

In the current landscape, apprenticeships have become a standard practice, providing opportunities for individuals across the board to pursue their desired careers. This dynamic approach not only aids learners in entering their chosen fields but also assists employers in constructing an optimal workforce tailored to their business needs.

However, the journey of apprenticeships and the national framework supporting them has undergone an evolution over time. Have you ever wondered about the historical roots of apprenticeships and how they have evolved into the present-day system? Delve into the narrative to unravel the rich history of apprenticeships and witness their transformation into the contemporary structure we now have.


Origins of apprenticeships

Let’s rewind to the roots of apprenticeships, back to the year 1563. This marked the introduction of the first national apprenticeship system through the Statute of Artificers. The conditions outlined in this system, akin to today’s minimum apprenticeship standards, allowed ‘masters’ to take on no more than three apprentices, with apprenticeships spanning an extensive seven years. However, this system dissolved in the 19th century, 251 years later, due in part to declining popularity linked to workplace conditions and the exploitation of younger apprentices.


The resilience and renewal of apprenticeships in the face of challenges

Despite the decline, apprenticeships persisted, particularly in professions and also expanded into newer industries like engineering and manual labour. The early 1900s witnessed a resurgence, with an estimated 340,000 apprentices. Post-World Wars, this trend continued, and by the 1960s, approximately a third of boys were opting for apprenticeships after leaving school. However, the system faced criticism throughout the 20th century for being too restrictive and insufficiently responsive to industry needs.


The emergence of a new scheme

In 1993, a transformative scheme, “Modern Apprenticeships”, was introduced, marking a shift in focus from the duration of apprenticeship to the qualifications attained. Modern apprentices were recognised as employees, receiving fair wages and working towards an NVQ Level 3 qualification, equivalent to today’s A-Levels. Subsequently, National Traineeships at Level 2 were introduced as a stepping stone for those not yet prepared for a Level 3 programme.

By the end of 1998, Modern Apprenticeship participation in England and Wales surged to nearly a quarter of a million, with a prevalence among small firms employing no more than five apprentices.


Ongoing transformations

Fast forward to 2004, witnessing another evolution in apprenticeships, ‘Advanced Modern Apprenticeships’ became ‘Advanced Apprenticeships’, and ‘Foundation Modern Apprenticeships, simply transitioned to ‘Apprenticeships’. The age limit of 25 was lifted, enabling individuals of all ages to embark on apprenticeships. Pre-apprenticeships for those not ready for a full apprenticeship and ‘Young Apprenticeships’ for 14-16 year olds were introduced.

Following the 2010 election, Higher Apprenticeships offering degrees or above were introduced, while the Young Apprenticeship scheme was discontinued. Small firms hiring apprentices aged 16-24 received financial incentives, contributing to a significant increase in apprenticeship starts.

By 2012, new minimum standards mandated that apprenticeships last at least one year, provide 30 hours of employment weekly, include a minimum guided learning component, and offer training in Maths and English for apprentices below GCSE standards.


The present state of apprenticeships

Today, apprenticeships are accessible to individuals of all ages, offering an avenue to commence new careers or enhance existing skills. With fair wages, and treated as employees within their chosen industries, apprentices simultaneously acquire the qualifications essential for their professional journey.

The trajectory of apprenticeships has witnessed remarkable progress since their inception, continually improving and expanding into diverse industries. As an apprenticeship provider, we eagerly anticipate the ongoing growth of apprenticeships and are committed to supporting all our learners every step of the way on their journey.

Are you ready to join us on this journey and see where an apprenticeship can lead? Speak to one of our team members to find out how Paragon Skills can help you on your journey, get in touch today on 0800 783 2545 or take a look at the courses on offer via our website –

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