An apprenticeship is the opportunity to learn a skill from an experienced mentor. An apprentice provides labor at a reduced rate or even pays for the opportunity to gain knowledge of a trade. After a pre-determined training period, an apprentice is usually granted certification or allowed to practice within a given field under his/her mentor.
Origins of the Apprenticeship
In the Middle Ages, a young man or woman in his/her teens would enter into an apprenticeship for a period of between seven and 10 years. The tasks of an apprentice would often involve low level chores such as cleaning or manual labor around a shop. During that time, they would also learn a skill such as blacksmithing or milling from a master craftsman, charged with teaching a trade by a professional guild or association. An apprentice would then be assigned to work and live with that master.
Apprenticeship is also a theme appeared in classic literature, such as in the tale, "The Two Brothers" by The Brothers Grimm, in which two boys became apprentices to a kindly huntsman.
Apprenticeship in the United States
After the Emancipation Proclamation abolished slavery, slaves had a four-year apprenticeship period between 1834 and 1838. Nearly a hundred years later, in 1937, the Fitzgerald Act was enacted to create labor standards for apprenticeships and formalize the process. As a result, a number of trades currently use apprenticeship programs to train the next generation. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act expanded protections for those serving in apprenticeships, in order to prevent discrimination based on religion, race, or gender. Today, many people associate apprenticeships with a reality television show The Apprentice starring real estate mogul Donald Trump.
Where to Find Apprenticeships
A number of private and public avenues exist to assist people interested in learning a trade or experiencing a career via an apprenticeship.
- Many unions have apprenticeship programs for entry-level employees.
- Helmets to Hardhats is a program designed to help returning soldiers find construction work.
- The Department of Labor has opportunities posted in local, state, and federal offices.
Career Fields That Utilize Apprenticeships
A wide variety of industries still rely on apprenticeships, although they may be referred to as internships. Lucrative positions are available in fields that rely on apprenticeships, consider elevator installers who made an annual average salary of $68,000 in 2007.
- Private schools often take on apprentice teachers without a certification degree, allowing for on-the-job training.
- When a person enlists in the Navy, they are eligible for the Airman Apprenticeship Training and can move from recruit to apprentice after a period of nine months.
- Pet groomers can learn as an apprentice or attend grooming programs.
- Electricians learn through a combination of practical and classroom training as part of a formal apprenticeship program.
- HVAC technicians often apprentice in order to train to repair and install heaters and air conditioners.
- Potters may take courses or informally learn in a studio.
- Floor installation technicians are required in some states to serve in a certificate apprenticeship program.
- Cosmetologists may substitute an apprentice period for school certification in several states.
- Geishas are still traditionally trained via the apprenticeship model.
How Graduate School Mirrors Apprenticeships
The time commitment and singular focus of graduate school makes for natural comparisons to apprenticeships. The relationship between a graduate student and an academic mentor can often mirror the relationship seen in an apprenticeship as the mentor provides information about the expectations of the community of professionals the student is about to join. Outside the classroom, many graduate students rely on experiential learning, the hallmark of apprenticeship programs.
Famous Apprentices Throughout History
Many apprenticeships have formed the basis for careers that changed history.
- Benjamin Franklin served as a printer’s apprentice to his elder brother James before his inventing and political careers.
- Vincent Van Gogh apprenticed with an art dealer before becoming an in-demand artist himself.
- Henry Ford was an apprentice machinist before going on to launch the Ford Motor Company.
Related Apprenticeship Resources
About.com Bipolar: Vincent Van Gogh  About.com Career Planning: Electricians  About.com Career Planning: Elevator Installers  About.com Career Planning: Groomers  About.com Career Planning: HVAC Technicans  About.com Career Planning: Internships  About.com Classical Literature: Benjamin Franklin  About.com Classical Literature: "The Two Brothers"  About.com African History: Apprenticeship Period  About.com Entrepreneurs: Donald Trump  About.com Grad School: Experiential Learning  About.com Grad School: Mentors  About.com Grad School: Time Commitment  About.com History 1900s: Henry Ford  About.com Internships: Apprenticeship  About.com Japanese: Geishas Geishas The Department of Labor: Apprenticeship Website  About.com Job Search: Unions  About.com Medieval History: Apprenticeship  About.com Pottery: A Craft Tradition Lives On  About.com Home Business: Floor Installation Technicians  About.com Career Planning: Cosmetologists  About.com Private School: Apprentice Teachers  About.com Reality TV: The Apprentice  About.com Tattoo: Battle of the "Scratchers"  About.com Tattoo: Apprenticeship Cost  About.com Tattoo: Apprenticeship Length  About.com Tattoo: College  About.com Tattoo: Art Portfolio  About.com Tattoo: Land an Apprenticeship  About.com US Government Info: Helmets to Hardhats  About.com US Military: Airman  About.com US Politics: Civil Rights Act  List of Trades: Apprenticeship and Training - Apprenticeable Occupations by Occupational Title  Cornell University Law School: The Fitzgerald Act