like you, I too have been following this thread with some
interest. In Australia, we were the inheritors of the
English/European apprenticeship system. Forty three years years
ago, when I became an apprentice, you had to be 15 years old,
male, and preferably have a member of the family in the business.
Thank heavens those expectations are no longer necessary.
However, for all its faults, it was a surprisingly equitable
system. I was particularly fortunate to be apprenticed to a
company that was proud of its reputation and standards, and my
apprentice master was a highly skilled and responsible jeweller
Added to this training, my employers were legally required to
send me to Technical College for “off the job” general studies in
design and technique. This was an extremely valuable factor in
trade training. Not all apprentices were as fortunate as I. Many
were indentured into menial and repetitious tasks, and the "Tech"
gave all of us an equally valuable start as far as basic training
In those days this was free education based on the enlightened
notion that peoples’ taxes were for the three essential
foundations of a just society - education, health and welfare.
With the erosion of people-based skills in favour of machine and
computer-controlled alternatives, there has been a catastrophic
and ultimately destructive trend in skills training. It is not as
if the need for skilled jewellers is no longer there. One has
only to follow this thread and the other thread on trained staff
to see that the need for skilled jewellers is as great as it has
ever been. Art, music, the skill of our hands and the wit of our
minds, are the things that make us human.
This erosion of people-based skills has been hastened by the
rise and rise of economic rationalism. Corporations and
governments are more and more indistinguishable in their rapacity
and indifference to the things that make us human. It’s all “user
pays”… and pays …and pays.
In Australia, a wonderful tradition of equal and free education
is being destroyed by economic rationalists with their cant of
"user pays". I understand how the American system has developed
and I have the utmost admiration for the dedication and standards
of you idealists that I have virtually met on Orchid. However, it
is a sad indictment on the values of our contemporary social
order that it is increasingly difficult and increasingly
expensive to secure proper training in these valuable skills.
This thread and the other training and learning threads have
been wonderfully informative. After forty years as a working
jeweller, twenty years in my own business, and now as a full time
trade teacher teaching design and technique, I am increasingly
committed to this whole area of adult and skills training. To
this end, I am researching in this field and would appreciate any
feed back or personal experiences and opinions on this topic. It
may be less cluttering for Orchid to talk direct:
Sorry to take up so much space, Dr Hanuman, regards and welcome
Rex Steele Merten.