Apprenticeships definition

Apprenticeships are vocational training practices whereby younger individuals work closely with an expert in order to gain the knowledge and experience necessary to succeed in a particular industry or set of skills. They are commonly seen in blue collar and traditional professions – internships are the equivalent in white collar and professional environments.

In the UK, apprenticeships were first seen in the 12th century and became commonplace by the 14th as a standardised way for young people to enter new trades. Entrepreneurs building businesses during the industrial revolution found the apprenticeship system restrictive – new trades were eventually exempt from the apprenticeship system, allowing workers in those trades to set up new, informal apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships remained a dominant method of training people until the mid-1980s, when the number of apprenticeships declined considerably. In the last twenty years the system has been revamped and there have been an increase in the diversity of schemes available and the sectors in which apprentices can study. In March 2013 Higher Legal apprenticeships launched, which are the equivalent to the first year of a degree and provide an alternative route to access a career in law.

In the UK, apprenticeships are subject to standard employment contracts although for apprenticeships between the ages of 16 and 18, the duration of the apprenticeship is funded by the Government. For apprentices between 19 and 24, the Government will only contribute 50 percent in England. Employers of apprentices over the age of 25 are likely to get a contribution towards the cost.

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