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Apprenticeships: Then and Now

Here at Great Annual Savings Group we think it’s important to acknowledge the value our apprentices bring to the business at such an early stage of their career. With National Apprenticeship week celebrating its 10th anniversary today, we invited Marketing Apprentice Rachel McCourt to blog about the history of the apprenticeship.

The Story of Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships first started in the 1500s with children as young as 10 years old. The child would usually learn their trade over a period of seven years, with their manager being responsible for their living, lodging and clothing whilst teaching them a trade. I wonder what Brad Groves, our CEO, would say if I asked for a shiny new pair of heels to go with my Marketing NVQ!

The first national apprenticeship system began in 1563, which introduced minimum standards for apprenticeships.  For example a tradesman was allowed to train no more than three apprentices.  At the time, it was common for upper class parents to send their child away to live with a host and learn a trade. Parents out there what do you think? Sound good to you?

Apprenticeships actually decreased in popularity during the 1800s due to concerns that apprentices were being exploited.

But the early twentieth century saw numbers start to rise again. According to the Institute of Directors, by the 1960s one third of young men were leaving school to start an apprenticeship.

A new apprenticeship scheme was launched in 1993 to class apprentices as employees and provide them with a wage.  Focus was now on the qualification an apprenticeship offered, rather than how many years it lasted.

Apprenticeships were opened to individuals over 25 years old from 2004 and pre-apprenticeships were introduced for anyone requiring extra support.

The 2006 Leitch Review set targets to boost apprenticeships to 500,000 a year by 2020. Courses can now only be called apprenticeships if the training provider proves that the course presents a career path equal to higher education.

There were now ‘Modern Apprenticeship Frameworks’ in place which structured how apprentices were taught and managed. I’m not sure which part of these frameworks suggested sending an apprentice for a ‘long-stand’ or ‘tartan paint’ would be beneficial, but we’ve always provided good entertainment. These frameworks influenced more employers to ‘buy-in’ to apprenticeships and by 2009 the list of providers expanded to 190.

The first ‘National Apprenticeship Week’ occurred in 2007 and over the last ten years the event has contributed greatly to the development of apprenticeships. The National Apprenticeship service itself was set up two years later to oversee delivery.

As more over 25’s took up apprenticeships, the number of people starting them doubled between 2009 and 2012 to over half a million.

Higher apprenticeships, the equivalents to a foundation degree, were introduced following the 2010 election. Over time the variety of choice and qualification level of apprenticeships has increased enormously.

New minimum standards were introduced in 2012, requiring apprenticeships to last at least 1 year, provide 30 hours per week employment and a minimum amount of guided learning. The purpose of this review was to redefine apprenticeships with employers’ needs in mind.

Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP and Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP launched the ‘2020 vision of apprenticeships’, 2015- to be of high quality and opportunity, delivering skills and knowledge that employers look for. The new policy outlines a refocus to enable employers to design the qualifications. You can read this policy here:

Did you know?

82% of employers reported that they were happy with their apprenticeship programme in 2014, now this figure is 90%. (Department for business, Innovation & Skills, 2016)

Going forward, the government are adapting apprenticeship laws in April to help reach the target of creating 3 million more apprentices by 2020. Employers will now have more control over apprenticeships and those with less than 50 employees and will receive full qualification funding for apprentices aged 16-18. You can apply for the grant here:

Larger employers (£3m per annum wage bill) will pay a levy of 0.5% of the payroll monthly, which can be used for apprenticeship training. The government will contribute an additional 10% on top of this.

More employers are starting apprenticeship schemes and recognising the value apprentices can add. 75% of employers believe apprentices improve productivity or the quality of their product/service. (Department for business, Innovation & Skills, 2016)

So, if you are a learner thinking about starting an apprenticeship then now is the best time to do it! You’ll gain transferable work skills that are practical. After all, 90% of apprentices remain in employment after completing their apprenticeship. (DfE Apprenticeship Core Brief – November 2016).

Gaining hands-on experience will make you aware of your strengths and interests rather than relying on theory-based learning. Apprenticeships have developed drastically over the last 10 years and will continue to do so.

I greatly value my apprenticeship and I would strongly recommend this career route to others.


*Data collected from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills at  

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Paul JohnsonGroup Financial Director

Paul Johnson is very much a home-grown talent.

He joined Great Annual Savings Group in its infancy, fresh from a youth career as a professional footballer with Hartlepool United.  He quickly established a reputation within the business and aced all required accountancy qualifications in the space of four years to become the Group’s Management Accountant.

Several successful projects later, Paul was promoted to Head of Finance.  When the former FD left GAS, he took on the mantle of the business’ most senior finance professional; boasting a string of incredible achievements all under the age of 30.


“I have witnessed phenomenal growth at the Group over the many years I’ve worked here and I’m looking forward to guiding the Group into an exciting new chapter.”

Interesting fact:

Paul made his professional debut for Hartlepool United against Bournemouth in the Football League.  Some say Danny Ings still resides in his pocket to this day.