Portsmouth Royal Dockyard

Apprentices Overview

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People held Royal Dockyard apprenticeships in high regard. Not only would they offer superb craft training, but they could also open up opportunities. Throughout most of the twentieth century Dockyard apprenticeships lasted 5 years. The Admiralty shortened them to 4 years in the 1970s and to 3 years by the 1980s. At the end of each year the apprentices had to sit competitive exams. These increased in difficulty and each time fewer apprentices passed them. The best apprentices were eligible for the Whitworth scholarships which allowed entry into university. This gave them the opportunity to study for a professional qualification, and many entered the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors.

To be accepted onto an apprenticeship school leavers would have to sit the Dockyard examination. The choice of trade apprenticeships open to school leavers was limited by the mark they achieved. The full range, including the senior trades, was only available to those who scored highly. The potential apprentices would go with their parent to the Admiral Superintendent to sign the indentures, the legal document accepting the terms of the apprenticeship. They were then able to select their trade from a list on a blackboard. Those with the highest grades went first. As there were a limited number of apprenticeships available within each trade this method ensured the brightest students could have the widest choice.

Source: http://www.seayourhistory.org.uk