All over Scotland, anxious teenagers will be receiving their exam results this week. The right grades could mean the first step to that dream job; a place on a training scheme or admission to university or college.Things were very different before the 20th century when career prospects were often more dependent on family links and wealth than on skills or academic success.
Apprenticeships in the Incorporation were long and hard. Aspiring wrights were required to serve a five-year apprenticeshipbefore becoming a journeyman. After three years service at this level, men were able to request an “essay” in order to demonstrate that they had achieved perfection in their skills. This would fully test the skills of a journeyman and it was only on successful completion of this, followed by the payment of “freedom money,” that he could finally become a freeman of the incorporation.
So how have things changed? Today’s apprentice joiners are not expected to have family links in the trade and apprenticeships are certainly shorter. Young people do not even have to pay “freedom money” before they are considered to be a full member of the trade.