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Keeping It In The Family


SKMBT_C25014050209340The following is written by Amy Williamson, the Social Media Apprentice for SET.

The story I’m sharing with you today is a hugely personal one. When going through my Grandparent’s paperwork the last thing I expected to find was an employment contract for my Great Grandfather’s own Apprenticeship in 1912.

At first I had no idea what it was. The elegant script handwriting and wax seal stamped document was slightly worn with age and faded in places but still readable.

It contained everything I might have wanted to know about Sidney Dennis Miller’s apprenticeship with the “The Cambridge Automobile and Engineering Company Ltd”. From details of the local Reverends who signed it, to how much it cost. Surprisingly it stated that it was worth £40 before I factored in the change of monetary value. After a bit of research I learnt that it was around £4,200 now.

I just couldn’t believe it. Since I started working for Springfield Education and Training Ltd in November last year I have loved the fact that I am doing real work instead of learning about how to do work. Obviously this is something that runs in my family as my Great Grandfather also went down the same work based learning route.

It’s hard to believe that he was working on building and putting together cars for an apprenticeship, when my career path in Social Media didn’t exist!

This has inspired me to look a little more into the history of apprenticeships and how they have changed since they started.

The earliest recorded apprenticeships in the UK were in 12th century. By the 14th century they had grown substantially. They involved a parent or guardian discussing conditions for an apprenticeship with a Guild’s Master craftsman. These would bind or ‘indenture’ the minor for between 5 and 9 years. Typically this was from ages 14 to 21.

Then in 1563, the “Statute of Artificers and Apprentices” was passed to protect the apprenticeship system. It essentially stopped anyone from doing a craft without first having served for at least 7 years as an apprentice to a master. This meant the highly skilled crafts required you to take the time to learn all the skills.

From 1601, ‘parish’ apprenticeships under the Elizabethan Poor Law came to be used as a way of providing for poor, illegitimate and orphaned children of both sexes alongside the regular system of skilled apprenticeships, which tended to provide for boys from higher class backgrounds. As my Great Grandfather received the help of a charity to pay for his apprenticeship I believe his was a later version of this.

Apprenticeships continued to change and move with the times, adapting and becoming essential for many industries.

My Great Grandfather was “sixteen years or thereabouts” according the contract which also states that the Colbatch & Hooper’s Orwell Charity paid for half of his apprenticeship. Through further research I discovered that the charity began in 1783 and distributed money to the poor at Christmas. It continued for many years, giving blankets and help to the people of Orwell where my Great Grandfather lived. Without the help of this charity he may never have been able to take an apprenticeship. It’s amazing when you think about today when the government has in place funding budgets to help pay for and get as many young people as possible into apprenticeships.

To compare, I have images of the contract from 1912 and below that one of the ones we use today. (You can click on them to make them bigger and have a closer look!) Please bear in mind the 1912 document is on A3 paper and today’s one is on A4 paper.



I complete my apprenticeship in Social Digital Media through the Digital Youth Academy and Springfield Education and Training Ltd, at the end of November this year and cannot recommend them enough.

If you want to take method of training that has endured the test of time and then you can find our current vacancies here, or our list of courses here.


Reproduced with kind permission from