- "We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master."
– Ernest Hemingway
- "There is no easy way to train an apprentice. My two tools are example and nagging."
– Lemony Snicket
Apprenticeship is an important process, developed in medieval societies in order to put the economy on a more professional footing. The specialization of workers into different crafts helps make them much better, and the tradition of introducing "apprentices" into the craft from a young age allows early formation of new specialists and transmission of the secrets of the craft to the next generation. Thus, a whole new specialty district - the Industrial Zone - is created, and in its special building, the Workshop, master craftsmen can work without bothering the other citizens. What's more, the operation of the most important industrial improvement, the Mine, is vastly improved by training young recruits the efficient ways of mining their masters have mastered.
Apprenticeship is one of the most important technologies of the middle game! Besides improving the performance of one of the most widely used improvements, it gives access to a universally-necessary district, the Industrial Zone, which will have multiple uses in the future (besides boosting one of the most universal types of Great People, the Great Engineer). But even if you're not truly the economic type, and prefer military development, you will still need Apprenticeship in order to reach the next-gen military units of the middle game. This tech is a gateway to the entire central-lower part of the tech tree.
Even better, Apprenticeship can be beelined relatively easily - it requires Horseback Riding and Currency, both of which are researched rather naturally in Turns 50–80. And the Eureka for Apprenticeship is ridiculously easy to activate, making it an easy choice for a first Medieval tech. Gallic players will have an easier time attaining Apprenticeship since the tech is automatically awarded when they build their unique district, the Oppidum, available with Iron Working.
Traditionally, an apprenticeship is some method of instructing a new generation of “masters” in a craft, art, or trade ... using hands-on training, leavened with lots of beatings. (The latter, not so much anymore.) During this period of training, the apprentice studies with an employer in exchange for his/her labor for an agreed time – typically, three to six years – until he/she has achieved a level of measurable competence. All this under the auspices of a guild or trade union. Those who complete their apprenticeship successfully become journeymen, and if diligent, masters themselves so they can instruct a new generation of apprentices. Thus, the trade or craft develops a self-sustaining core of practitioners.
The whole system evolved during the late Middle Ages, when a master craftsman was given the right in many town and city charters to employ young people in exchange for lodging, food, a little spending money, and formal training. In effect, the apprentice was bound body and soul to the master for the length of the apprenticeship. But it was better than most other choices for poor and illiterate youngsters looking to get ahead. In most of Europe, once an apprentice became a journeyman (if he/she did), they were considered a freeman with all the rights of any citizen. If they became masters, they were respected and respectable members of society.
Most apprentices during the medieval and renaissance periods were male, but female apprentices could be found in a few places learning to be seamstresses, tailors, cordwainers, or stationers. Civilization is built upon a constantly renewed skilled labor force, of course; whereas through much of history these skills were passed down in families, the population and technological explosion that began in the 1400s demanded an expanding force. And the guild-apprentice system worked very well. In time government regulations disbanded the guilds and the rise of vocational schools gave young workers other options; nevertheless, vestiges of the apprenticeship system remain, especially in the building trades.