The education of apprentices
The education of apprentices has always been an important feature of technical education. Even since the creation of technical classes, large numbers of apprentices have attended, but prior to the more direct control of apprenticeship by the State, students exercised their own discretion in selecting subjects of study and had little guidance from those connected with their respective trades. During the early part of the twentieth century organised craft unions were opposed to the employment of unskilled and child labour. They supported the policy of a compulsory, systematic technical education for apprentices as a means of restricting the number of apprentices to the journeyman, and of excluding unskilled labour. The decisions of wages boards and arbitration courts also encouraged this policy.
The establishment of trade advisory committees in 1915 for carpentry and joinery, electrical work, fitting and machining, and plumbing marked a new step towards the co-ordination of industry and technical training. In the following year, electrical engineering apprentices throughout the State were required to attend classes if resident in certain districts. In 1920 a Central Apprenticeship Committee was established to supervise training and to conduct examinations for those desirous of entering a trade. After the proclamation of the New Apprenticeship Act in 1924, the control of the scheme and the registration of apprentices passed to the Public Works Department and did not return to the Department of Public Instruction until 1932.
Since then, changes in legislation dealing with apprentices have stabilised and developed the apprenticeship scheme, and eased considerably the burden of night classes for many trade courses. In this respect, an important development in the 1970s was the advent of block release training in 1971, which has enabled apprentices to attend technical colleges for longer blocks of time. The introduction of pre-vocational courses in the 1970s has also meant an improvement in the standard of apprenticeship training.