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Apprenticeships are big news right now, with planned reforms to how they operate and the government putting their support behind getting people trained up and ready to work. It may seem that apprenticeships are a new thing, or at least something that has come to the fore in recent years, but actually, apprenticeships have been part of the fabric of our society for centuries. Going right back to medieval times, young people would learn a trade or craft as an apprentice to a master. These apprenticeships could take many years with a blacksmith’s apprentice taking some eight years or so to truly master the skills required. Historical apprenticeships would have included trades like stonemasonry, fletching (making arrows), carpentry, and more. With few universities, an apprenticeship was the primary way to learn a skill for the future – and all craftsmen (and occasionally women) would have learnt their trade under the watch of a skilled master. These days an apprenticeship can be taken in a wide range of subjects which would not have existed some centuries ago, and of course, you are also now free to move around to pursue your goals. However, as a method of learning, there are some distinct similarities between historical apprenticeships and those of today. By learning a skill in the workplace and putting it into direct practice, an apprentice is taught the correct way to do a job, allowing businesses to train future employees directly. This means that you can save hours by cutting out the process of learning from your own mistakes – instead learning the correct way to do a job right away. For many, learning the right way to do a job from a skilled master, along with some pay while you learn, isn’t just a relic from the past, but is also a way into your own future.

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