The concept of an apprenticeship has been around since the latter part of the Middle Ages, and remains a viable form of training today. Essentially, an apprenticeship is a means of taking on an individual who will learn the skills and practices that are associated with a given career path. The apprentice is taken under the wing of an individual who is recognized and an expert practitioner of the craft, and over a period of years is schooled in all aspects of the career, until the apprentice is able to go out on his or her own and function effectively.
The idea of an apprenticeship first developed as a way for craftsmen to train young protégés in a particular craft, with an eye of one day turning their business over to the apprentice. In other applications, municipal governments would send young men to another location to be schooled in a particular craft, with the understanding the individual would return to the town or village after the apprenticeship and set up a local shop. In both cases, the apprentices would remain with the master craftsman for a number of years, until it was determined that the individual had earned the right to be referred to as a craftsman, and was ready to go it alone.
While most apprenticeships in the Middle Ages involved the vocational training of young men, there were some apprenticeship opportunities for young women as well. Most of these involved schooling in what were considered feminine arts, such as embroidery, weaving and sewing, and in some cases learning how to be a governess. Just as with the young men, the young women who entered into an apprenticeship had to demonstrate some degree of natural talent, and would commit to a period of five to seven years away from family.
As time went on, the process of apprenticeship underwent a great deal of change. Governmental regulations began to define the limits of apprenticeship, which led to the abandonment of the practice of apprenticing young people in some crafts. In others, the process of apprenticeship began to change into a process that is not unlike the on the job training programs that are often found today. Still, the concept of the apprenticeship is not dead. Especially with the creative arts, it is still possible to attach an individual to someone who is acknowledged as an authority, and spend a number of years studying under the tutelage of that expert authority.