Have you ever considered the historical aspects of vocational education and when apprenticeships were first established?

Vocational education can be traced back to the 19th Century and was particularly prominent as part of the Mechanic’s Institute Movement. This movement was introduced to help improve the literacy and numeracy skills of working people, whilst also helping to provide some technical education too. The classes which were offered included English language and English literature, mathematics, technical drawing and art. These classes reflected the needs of the local society and the employers being worked with. This movement became further developed through the introduction of the Technical Instruction Act 1889. This was an important piece of legislation as it enabled local authorities access to finances, to develop technical education institutions, with education being provided through day and evening classes. When the 1944 Education Act was initiated, this created a further education sector and helped to broaden further education provisions to include full time study in relevant educational institutions.

Additional initiatives have been developed over the years in relation to vocational education and this has included The Technical and Vocational Employment Initiative that was developed in 1982. This was developed with an aim to provide a dedicated pathway of vocational education for those aged fourteen to eighteen years old and focused on those who were considered to be non-academic. This initiative aimed to improve the qualifications and skills of individuals, whilst also providing work experience opportunities, together with careers guidance. In 1985, the Certificate of Pre-Vocational Education was introduced. This was aimed at providing students with the skills needed to support employment, whilst also helping individuals to understand the world of work.

When looking at the history of vocational education, it is useful to also explore the development of apprenticeships here too. Apprenticeships in England were first recognised in the middle-ages with the craft guilds, and in 1563 the first national apprenticeship scheme was introduced. Apprenticeships continued to develop and throughout the 1900s, apprenticeships become popular in industries such as ship building, plumbing and electrical work. In 1993, a new apprenticeship system was rolled out in England and this was known as a modern apprenticeship. This new system helped to ensure that apprentices were counted as employees and that they were also paid a wage for the work completed. Within a modern apprenticeship, an emphasis was placed upon qualifications being obtained.

Moving into the 2000s, apprenticeships saw further developments occur when the national frameworks for standards were introduced. This helped to define the standard expected within an apprenticeship. In 2012, additional changes were made to the apprenticeship frameworks, which stipulated how an apprenticeship must last at least a year and must have a minimum number of guided learning hours. A stipulation was also included that all apprentices had to obtain both maths and English qualifications at GCSE standard.

If you are interested in furthering your knowledge of any the points as included here, please see the recommended reading below:

Historic England (2017) Mechanics’ Institutes. Available at: https://historicengland.org.uk/images-books/publications/iha-mechanics-institutes/heag187-mechanics-institutes-iha/

Goldstone, R. (2019) The origins of further education in England and Wales. Available at: https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/the-origins-of-further-education-in-england-and-wales

West, J. and Steedman, H. (2003) Finding Our Way: Vocational Education in England. Available at: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/13485/1/OP018.pdf

Mirza-Davies, J. (2015) A short history of apprenticeships in England: from medieval craft guilds to the twenty-first century. Available at: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/a-short-history-of-apprenticeships-in-england-from-medieval-craft-guilds-to-the-twenty-first-century/