The evolution of apprenticeships

Apprenticeships have changed rapidly over the last two decades, read on to find where they started and where they are now.


Over the last ten years, apprenticeships have become a popular career path among individuals looking to study and work simultaneously to earn a living while working towards a qualification. But it hasn’t all been plain sailing. For example, apprenticeships in England can be traced back to medieval craft guilds in the Middle Ages! But that’s a long time ago. The one certain thing is apprenticeships have always held an essential role in society.

Apprenticeships in the Middle Ages

Apprenticeships can be traced back to the middle ages where upper-class parents sent their children as young as ten away to live with host families to train to work, often for seven years. This is where the phrase ‘the master and his apprentice’ originated. The master personally taught the apprentice and took responsibility for his welfare, providing somewhere to live and food to eat. 

Apprenticeships decline: 1900 - 1992

Between 1900 – 1992, apprenticeships spread to newer industries of engineering, shipbuilding, plumbing and electrical work. There were around 340,000 apprentices in the early 1900s, according to an Institute of Directors (IoD) policy paper from 2003. This continued to grow after both World Wars, and by the 1960s, a third of boys were leaving school to become apprentices. Unfortunately, after peaking in the 1960s, apprenticeships started to decline, with half as many apprentices in 1995 as in 1979. This was for several reasons, including the changing nature of work, which meant fewer traditional trade roles and the rise in students staying on to study after age 16.

Apprenticeships reformed: 1993 - 2004

Due to the decline in people choosing an apprenticeship, a new scheme, ‘Modern Apprenticeships’, was announced in 1993 and rolled out over the following two years. This meant individuals would count as employees and be paid a wage. The big difference was that apprentices were required to work towards an NVQ Level 3 qualification, equivalent to A-levels today. This meant that apprentices would have a clear qualification at the end of their apprenticeship journey and prove their skills and ability. 


The next advancement was the introduction of National Traineeships at level 2 (GCSE equivalent), introduced as a progression toward an apprenticeship. Finally, in the early 2000s, the government introduced national frameworks to define the minimum standards required for each apprenticeship. 

From modern to post-modern: 2004 - 2010

In 2004, Advanced Modern Apprenticeships became ‘Advanced Apprenticeships’ and Foundation Modern Apprenticeships became ‘Apprenticeships’. In addition, the upper age limit of 25 was removed, making apprenticeships more accessible for people, and young apprenticeships were introduced for 14-16-year-olds still at school. 

The first National Apprenticeship week took place in 2007 to draw more attention nationally to the benefits of apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships growth: 2010 - 2015

After the 2010 election in the UK, Higher Apprenticeships were introduced, equivalent to foundation degrees or above, and the Young Apprenticeship scheme was ended. New minimum standards were introduced in 2012 and required that all apprenticeships last at least a year, provide 30 hours of employment a week and a minimum amount of guided learning.

The future of Apprenticeships

From April 2017, large employers were required to pay the apprenticeship levy, set at 0.5% of an employer’s pay bill over £3m. There continues to be a massive emphasis on communicating the benefits of apprenticeships today. We are seeing more and more organisations open up roles for apprentices within their companies to help offer a variety of jobs to reverse the unemployment rate. 


(Are you a LEARNER looking to start an apprenticeship?) Follow this link:

(Are you an EMPLOYER looking to upskill your team members?) Follow this link:


If you have a question or would like to learn more about one of our services, head to our contact page and a member of our team will contact you as soon as possible.

If you would like to reach out to a specific member of our team, please use the button below.

Library of

Blended Learning Programmes

Online-Only Structured Programmes

The Giants Marketing Masterclass

Mentoring Programme​

Mentoring Overview