In centuries past the primary way to join a Livery Company was through an apprenticeship. Members of the Livery Company would take on apprentices, provide food, lodging, clothing and instruction in their particular trade, craft or profession. The apprentice would agree to keep clear of ale houses, gambling dens, and study diligently with the aim of eventually qualifying as a journeyman, usually after a period of between five and seven years. An apprentice would often finish their period of study with a final examination and presentation of a piece of work known as a Master Piece.
Apprentices and their masters were bound in a contract known as a deed indenture, so named because the parchment was cut in two with an indented (or wavy) line to allow both parties to keep a copy, whilst proving they can from a single document usually signed by the apprentices father and the apprentices master.
Apprentices were often at loggerheads with the City authorities are there are numerous records of riots and disturbances between groups of apprentices. The situation was not aided by the fact that apprentices often had easy access to arms, and did not always observe their duty to stay away from London’s drinking dens.
In modern times several Livery Companies continue to take on apprentices, and there is a Livery Company wide prorgramme to support apprenticeships in the trades, crafts and professions represented by the livery. Many companies also sponsor bursaries, scholarships and award prizes for undergraduate and postgraduate study and research in their respective fields.
The City and Guilds of London Institute
The Livery Companies maintain strong links with vocational education, especially through the City and Guilds of London Institute, an examination and awarding body for trade, craft and professional qualifications founded in 1878 by sixteen of the City’s Livery Companies. The President of City & Guilds is HRH The Princess Royal, herself a Past Master of many City of London Livery Companies.
City & Guilds continues to be governed by a council that has representation from the Corporation of London and eighteen of the City's Livery Companies whilst many other companies have involvement in shaping qualifications or advising on future vocational training needs. The Rt Hon The Lord Mayor of London is also an ex-officio member of the City & Guilds council.
The following video explores the links between the Livery Companies and City & Guilds from the foundation of the Institute through to modern times.