6 2 mins 6 yrs

I commenced a five-year apprenticeship with an North-East engineering firm at the age of sixteen. Five years later, with a technical qualification and a thorough grounding in the basics of electrical engineering behind me, I joined the Merchant Navy, and discovered how much I didn’t know. As with electrics, thousands of my fellow apprentices learnt the skills they had chosen, whether it was bricklaying, carpentry, fitting, machining skills, light or heavy: we all learned the skills needed to make things, to build, to repair, to diagnose, to understand the complexity of a building, or a single machine tool, or a car. Many othere chose a different path, to go to University and study medicine, or the Law, or indeed any of the many and varied professions.

To be an apprentice was an honourable thing; to learn, to absorb, to clarify, to repair and to make good.

I have nothing against people who learn the dark arts of how to serve and sell coffee, most are due a high regard for working hard for low pay: but apprentices they are, simply, not!


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6 thoughts on “Elections and promises; all 16,000 of them.

  1. One of my like-minded colleagues from England was telling me about how his daughter had finished University and had some difficulty finding a career, or even a job. She was telling him how one of her friends had found a job and he remarked how impressed he was to hear that his daughter’s friend had become a barrister. He was a bit less impressed when his daughter explained that her friend was a barista, working at Costa Coffee.

  2. The very word ‘apprenticeship’, brings back memories of one of the ‘pillars of our community’, alas now long gone, destroyed by neo-liberal ideas of just what the term ‘equality’ meant.

    Erroneously the unions regarded apprentices as an employer scam to hire what they called ‘cheap labour’. Technical colleges were disbanded or became a part of the ‘uni’ system, enabling everyone to have a degree, but no way to recognise the value of any artisan skill qualification.

    Of course, that opened the door to import cheap, but nonetheless skilled labour from Eastern Europe.

    Apprenticeships were a combination of the efforts employer, government and trade organisations, known as craft guilds. They were a way for the community to compliment and show appreciation for those who skills lay in the more physically skilful rather than intellectual fields of endeavour. City and Guilds certificates were as valuable to the recipient as once a degree was to those who attended ‘uni’. . Socialism successfully, while destroying the former demeaned the latter.

    Three million new jobs in five years! – what a bunch of liars! – or perhaps they mean that is the expected increase in immigrant labour over that time. That the importation of cheap labour is but a step away from the same motive that drove the slave trade of a couple of centuries ago, it is just the persuasion that is different.

  3. p.s.

    Can you imagine the joy of earning a certificate from Starbucks, that it would likely be for tax avoidance matters little.

  4. I know of one young fellow who is not for a variety of reasons uni material. He is ‘petite’. As a teen he became barista and now manages two shops (he’s 29) so it worked out well for him.
    Yesterday?? or so, Starbucks announced it would be paying for any employee’s undergraduate university degree — whether they are part- or full-time. The university is probably the most well-known/popular online university in the US.

  5. It’s worth remembering that it was the Thatcher government who first oversaw the running down of the apprenticeship schemes.

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