Gaining Experience through Apprenticeships

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"Apprentice" is likely to conjure up one of two images: going toe-to-toe with Donald Trump on "The Apprentice" or pounding horseshoes as an 18th-century master blacksmith's assistant. Despite being centuries apart in style, substance and setting, what these two forms of apprenticeship have in common is on-the-job tutelage under the wing of an expert with a very wide occupational wingspan, indeed.

Apprenticeships offer win-win scenarios for both parties: Obviously, the apprentice benefits from the guidance, experience, skill set, knowledge and employment opportunities gained; by the same token, the teacher craftsman not only has a cheap or income-generating source of labor, but also has the power to uphold the standards and expectations of the profession, by controlling entry of novices into it.

The match is especially good in occupations that require as much "show" as "tell"-if not more. In economies in which white-collar employment opportunities are limited or declining, an apprenticeship in a vocational, technical or craft field can be a smart alternative. For those with apprentice predilections for white-collar jobs, the modern "internship" provides a comparable option.

Apprenticeships involve learning new skills from experts or those who have such skills. The reasons for entering an apprenticeship include:

* to acquire proficiency in traditional occupations with highly restricted numbers and restrictive regulations, e.g., traditional craft guilds, which have proud and exclusive histories
* to undertake training as close to on-the-job, real-world practical experience as possible
* to be productive in an occupation while acquiring its requisite skills, e.g., by working under a master carpenter as an apprentice carpenter on the construction of a house.
* to acquire an income-generating education without the necessity or opportunity to graduate from university or college.
* to be eligible for vocational subsidies that may be offered for various apprenticeships
* to become employable in an economy that offers fewer and fewer white-collar jobs

This path of learning is extremely beneficial, especially if the individuals who are learning new skills do not have any previous education, prior experience or pre-existing skills for the career path they are learning in. Many people have successfully launched great careers by starting on a learning path with experts who were able to guide them along. By learning a trade in a focused environment, individuals spend all their working hours learning that new trade in a practical setting, which can generate success. This is why this learning style, format and process for acquiring knowledge are very popular.

Apart from hands-on knowledge transfer that occurs during apprenticeships, there may also be periods of theoretical learning that provide a historical perspective on the skills that are being learned. It is important to know how to do something, but there is also an advantage in knowing why it needs to be done and the other relationships that have been and may be associated with the task. An example of a popular area for this type of learning and skill knowledge transfer is carpentry, where a person shadows an experienced carpenter to understand how to make various products. While learning, individuals may also be given minor jobs and tasks to carry out. This helps to reinforce certain concepts that may have been taught. The more the individuals learn from the master craftsman, the more they are able to handle larger tasks by themselves.
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