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The Apprentice System in Effect Fifty Years Ago - JCW 1919
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|Author||Topic: The Apprentice System in Effect Fifty Years Ago - JCW 1919|
posted 04-26-2019 01:46 PM
THE JEWELERS' CIRCULAR-WEEKLY
February 5, 1919
Radical changes in industrial conditions have taken place in Newark during the past half century, the same as in other parts of the country, and, indeed, the whole world. Manufacturers do things far differently now than they did 50 years ago, and employees work under far different conditions. An illustration of this fact, drawn from the manufacturing jewelry business in New ark, is the matter of apprentices.
Fifty years ago the apprentice system was in full operation in Newark. Apprentices were then bound out to their masters for a number of years under specific terms and conditions set forth in a legal document. They sometimes slept in the factories of their masters, and, in addition to their duties in the factory, split wood or did other odd jobs for their masters.
The masters, on the other hand, had to give their apprentices their "keeps"; a certain amount of money, almost negligible at first and increasing somewhat each year to the end of the apprentice ship, and in addition were required to teach the apprentices the jewelry manufacturing trade.
Today the apprentice system has all but disappeared. Apprentices came to feel, in these latter years, that their apprentice papers did not bind them to their masters, or that it would make so much trouble for their masters to get them back that they felt safe in assuming that they could leave for employment elsewhere without serious consequences. This tendency to quit their apprentice ship grew rapidly, and it finally came to pass that boys often would leave their masters after they had partially learned the trade, if they had opportunity to get a dollar or two more a week elsewhere. This created a situation neither desirable on the part of the manufacturers, nor the boys themselves, if looked at from the point of view of their best interest. The effect on the part of the manufacturer may be shown from the statement of one of them to a Jewelers' Circular representative. He said: "I have not had an apprentice in the shop for several years. I could not afford to do so. I would take on apprentices who were of no real help to me while they were green, and put myself cut to give them personal instruction in jewelry making, and my foreman would give part of his time also. For many months the real work that they did did not amount to what I was paying them and the value of the work which they spoiled. At last they would arrive at a point where they would just about earn what I was paying them. Their training thus far was a personal loss to me in time and money. I had expected that, but, like all manufacturers under the apprenticeship system, I expected to make up my losses during the last months of the apprenticeship of the boys in my factory, when they would be earning a little more than I was paying them. But times changed, and, in my factory, at least, it came to be almost a rule that as soon as a boy got where he could do anything worth while, he would quit and go to some other factory because he could get a little more pay than I was giving him under the apprenticeship agreement. I had been training the boys for other manufacturers at a personal loss to myself, and I quit hiring apprentices."
Other manufacturers had similar experiences.
The effect of breaking their apprenticeship agreements was bad for the boys also, for when they left their masters under such circumstances it was before they had mastered their trade. Going to other places they were simply employees and received no more specific instruction. The result was that the percentage of skilled jewelry workers be rime smaller, while the ranks of the less efficient became correspondingly larger.
Technical schools with free evening classes, in which jewelry designing, jewelry making, etc., are taught, are now conducted by the city, and these courses, in Dart, make up for the lack caused by the passing of the apprenticeship system.
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