Four Thousand Year Old Solution to the Skilled Worker Shortage

The ancient Egyptians were amazing builders, creating structures that are still standing after thousands of years. From exquisite hand-crafted furniture to the pyramids, every project was a work of art. Have you ever wondered how they were able to maintain such high quality craftsmanship over the course of several centuries?

The Egyptians realized a simple truth. Skills and knowledge must be handed down from generation to generation for any craft to survive. They devised a deceptively simple training process still used today. That system is apprenticeship.

Apprenticeship has continued to be the preferred system of training, even as it has evolved to meet societal needs. The reasons include:

The Design

Apprenticeship is and always has been a work-based training process. The design is relatively simple with three main pillars:

1. The Master/Craftsman/Journeyman (employer)
2. The Apprentice
3. The Contract—formerly known as “indenture.”

With every apprenticeship a skilled craftsman had to be willing to teach the trade to an apprentice. The apprentice, in turn, promised to learn the craft. The exact terms of any apprenticeship are governed by a written agreement. No matter what other improvements have been added, the success of apprenticeship has been in its basic design.

Ability to Adapt to the Times

Building on its foundation of success, apprenticeship has adapted and changed with society. Within the past 100 years, three additional components have been added to strengthen the program. The three modern elements of apprenticeship are:

1. Approving agency oversight—State and/or Federal Government
2. Advisory committee involvement—Joint, unilateral, or in-house industrial
3. Related instruction—Training institution or facility

These three components add strength to the apprenticeship relationship. Modern apprenticeship programs still focus on the apprentice and employer, under a formal agreement, but now an approving agency oversees the contract.

Many apprenticeships, especially in the construction industry are sponsored by advisory committees working closely with other parties to ensure apprentices are being trained properly, fairly, and safely. For many apprentices, the committee is the first line of contact if there are questions or concerns.

Related instruction, the classroom portion of apprenticeship, is the other modern improvement. When combined with on-the-job training (OJT), classroom instruction becomes a very important reason why apprenticeship works as well today as it has in times past.

Apprenticeship training really makes a difference. If you haven’t trained apprentices recently, or at all, this may be a good time to start. Contact the ABC of Wisconsin Apprenticeship Office at 800-829-9926 or check out the website at for more information on how you can build your skilled workforce through apprenticeship.

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