Whilst we may no longer be experiencing a time when a young person can or should be indentured in the way that an apprentice blacksmith, saddler, farrier, wheelwright or cabinet maker once would have been, the reality is that history has a lot of good things to teach us about the way that our system of education can and should now operate.
No, these trade crafts may not reflect the opportunities en masse that are available in the modern age.
Yes, the industries we have today may look and sound very different. But if we have brought the priorities of why businesses exist back to providing for life for all and away from providing profit for the few, we will soon find ourselves with genuine opportunities to create a parallel vocational apprenticeship pathway alongside the academic route from the ages of 14 to 21, that will be good for the apprentice, good for business and good for the wider community and the UK too.
A seven-year apprenticeship would allow young people of a practical orientation to literally learn their skills – with light touch support from tertiary or technical colleges, whilst their training could easily involve additional training such as driving licenses and industry standard qualifications. All the time providing a low-cost source of basic labour for industries in return.
At the age of 21, the parallel pathways would both end at the same time. And whilst degrees would have had their real value in the eyes of industry restored, there would also be an equivalent pool of candidates who were just as valuable, but qualified differently, with skills and experience that could only come through the process of being ‘time served’.