System Introduced in 1964
The mainstay of training in industry has been the apprenticeship system, and the main concern has been to avoid skill shortages in traditionally skilled occupations and higher technician and engineering professionals, e.g. through the UK Industry Training Boards (ITBs) set up under the 1964 Act. The aims were to ensure an adequate supply of training at all levels; to improve the quality and quantity of training; and to share the costs of training among employers. The ITBs were empowered to publish training recommendations, which contained full details of the tasks to be learned, the syllabus to be followed, the standards to be reached and vocational courses to be followed. These were often accompanied by training manuals, which were in effect practitioners' guides to apprentice training, and some ITBs provide training in their own centers. The ITBs did much to formalize what could have been a haphazard training experience and greatly improved its quality. The years from the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s saw the highest levels of apprentice recruitment, yet even so, out of a school leaving cohort of about 750,000, only about 110,000 (mostly boys) became apprentices. The apprenticeship system aimed at highly developed craft and higher technician skills for an elite minority of the workforce, the majority of whom were trained in industries that declined rapidly from 1973 onwards, and by the 1980s it was clear that in manufacturing this decline was permanent. (Apprenticeship in the United Kingdom: From ITBs to YTS Author(s): Peter Haxby and David ParkesSource: European Journal of Education, Vol. 24, No. 2 (1989), pp. 167–181).
Since the 1950s the UK high technology industry (Aerospace, Nuclear, Oil & Gas, Automotive, Telecommunications, Power Generation and Distribution etc.) trained its higher technicians and professional engineers via the traditional indentured apprenticeship system of learning - usually a 4 - 6 year process from age 16–21. There were 4 types of traditional apprenticeship; craft, technician, higher technician, and graduate. Craft, technician and higher technician apprenticeships usually took 4 to 5 years while a graduate apprenticeship was a short 2 year experience usually while at university or post graduate experience. Non graduate technician apprenticeships were often referred to as technical apprenticeships. The traditional Apprenticeship Framework in the 1950s, 60's and 70's was designed to allow young people (16 years old) an alternative path to GCE A Levels to achieve both an academic qualification at level 4 or 5 NVQ along with competency based skills for knowledge work. Often referred to as the "Golden Age" of work and employment for bright young people, the traditional technical apprenticeship framework was open to young people who had a minimum of 4 GCE "O" Levels to enroll in an Ordinary National Certificate or Diploma or a City & Guilds engineering technician course. Apprentices could progress to the Higher National Certificate, Higher National Diploma or advanced City and Guilds course such as Full Technological Certification. Apprenticeship positions at elite companies often had hundreds of applications for a placement. Academic learning during an apprenticeship was achieved either via block release or day release at a local technical institute. An OND or HND were usually obtained via the block release approach whereby an apprentice would be released for periods of up to 3 months to study academic courses full-time and then return to the employer for applied work experience. For entrance into the higher technical engineering apprenticeships "O"Levels had to include Mathematics, Physics, and English language. The academic level of subjects such as mathematics, physics, chemistry on ONC / OND and some City & Guilds advanced technicians courses was equivalent to A level mathematics, physics and chemistry. The academic science subjects were based on applied science in subjects such as thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, mechanics of machines, dynamics and statics, electrical science and electronics. These are often referred to as the engineering sciences . HNC and HND were broadly equivalent to subjects in the first year of a Bachelors degree in engineering but not studied to the same intensity or mathematical depth. HNC was accepted as entrance into the first year of an engineering degree and high performance on an HND course could allow a student direct entry into the second year of a degree. Few apprentices followed this path since it would have meant 10 –12 years in further and higher education. For the few that did follow this path they accomplished a solid foundation of competency based work training via apprenticeship and attained a higher academic qualifications at a university or Polytechnic combining both forms of education; vocational plus academic. During the 1970s City and Guilds assumed responsibility for the administration of HNC and HND courses.
The City and Guilds of London Institute the forerunner of Imperial College engineering school has been offering vocational education through apprenticeships since the 1870s from basic craft skills (mechanic, hairdresser, chef, plumbing, carpentry, bricklaying etc.) all the way up to qualifications equivalent to university masters degrees and doctorates. The City and Guilds diploma of fellowship is awarded to individuals who are nationally recognized through peer review as having achieved the very highest level in competency based achievement. The first award of FCGI was approved by Council in December 1892 and awarded in 1893 to Mr H A Humphrey, Engineering Manager of the Refined Bicarbonate and Crystal Plant Departments of Messrs Brunner, Mond & Co. His award was for material improvements in the manufacture of bicarbonate of soda. The system of nomination was administered within Imperial College, with recommendations being passed to the Council of the Institute for approval. Approximately 500 plus people have been awarded Fellowship since its inception.
The traditional apprenticeship framework's purpose was to provide a supply of young people seeking to enter work-based learning via apprenticeships by offering structured high value learning and transferable skills and knowledge. Apprenticeship training was enabled by linking industry with local technical colleges and professional engineering institutions. The apprenticeship framework offered a clear pathway and competency outcomes that addressed the issues facing the industry sector and specific companies. This system was in place since the 1950s. The system provided young people with an alternative to staying in full-time education post- 16/18 to gain purely academic qualifications without work-based learning. The apprenticeship system of the 1950s 60's and 70's provided the necessary preparation for young people to qualify as a Craft trade (Machinist, Toolmaker, Fitter, Plumber, Welder, Mechanic, Millwright etc.), or Technician (quality inspector, draughtsman, designer, planner, work study, programmer,or Technician Engineer (tool design, product design, methods, stress and structural analysis, machine design etc.) and even enabled a path to full Chartered Engineer registration (Mechanical, Electrical, Civil. Aeronautical, Chemical, Manufacturing etc.). Chartered Engineer registration was usually achieved in the late 20's early 30's. Apprentices undertook a variety of job roles in numerous shop floor and office technical functions to assist the work of master craftsmen, technicians, engineers, and managers in the design, development, manufacture and maintenance of products and production systems.
It was possible for apprentices to progress from national certificates and diplomas to engineering degrees if they had the aptitude. Reference "The social production of technical work: the case of British engineers" Peter Whalley, SUNY Press 1986. The system allowed young people to find their level and still achieve milestones along the path from apprenticeship into higher education via a polytechnic or university. Though rare, it was possible for an apprentice to advance from vocational studies, to undergraduate degree, to graduate study and earn a masters degree or a PhD. The system was effective; industry was assured of a supply of well educated and fit for work staff, local technical colleges offered industry relevant courses that had a high measure of academic content and an apprentice was prepared for professional life or higher education by the age of 21. With the exception of advanced technology companies particularly in aerospace (BAE systems, Rolls Royce, Bombardier) this system declined with the decline of general manufacturing industry in the UK.
Traditional apprenticeships reached their lowest point in the 1980s: by that time, training programmes declined. The exception to this was in the high technology engineering areas of aerospace, chemicals, nuclear, automotive, power and energy systems where apprentices continued to served the structured four - five year programmes of both practical and academic study to qualify as engineering technician or Incorporate Engineer (engineering technologist) and even go on to earn a master of engineering degree and qualify as a Chartered Engineer; the UK gold standard engineering qualification. Engineering technicians and technologists continued in the traditional approach from the golden age attended the local technical college (1 day and 2 evenings per week) on a City & Guilds programme or Ordinary National Certificate / Higher National Certificate course. In effect becoming a chartered engineer via the apprenticeship route involved 10 – 12 years of both academic and vocational training at an employer, college of further education and university. In 1986 National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) were introduced, in an attempt to revitalize vocational training. Still, by 1990, apprenticeship took up only two-thirds of one percent of total employment.
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