The skills shortage is currently being talked about as though it is a new thing that skills shortages never existed before. Well, sorry, but they did and they always have.
Long before apprenticeships ever entered anyone’s minds, there were crops to pick and fields to plough, houses to build and swords to be made.
But to do these jobs required some knowledge some skills. Trouble was, local people didn’t have those skills.
So what happened? Well, in the area that I live in, there was a big need for bricks that wouldn’t crumble. And were there enough local craftsmen making bricks? Of course there weren’t. And the ones that did exist were making very poor bricks.
So what did they do – the lord of the manor, presumably – to rectify the situation? Well blow me down, they imported some migrant workers from Holland, who happened to know all about bricks.
They were ‘master craftsmen’, we are glibly informed in the record books. Of course, back in The Netherlands, they probably couldn’t hold down a job, such was the level of craftsmanship at the time (we are talking 1444-ish).
Naturally, the original, nay traditional British craftsman, the one who wasn’t a master craftsman, was sitting around drinking mead, or whatever passed for tea in the olden days. Plus ça change, as the French fruit pickers of central London used to say. And probably still do.
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