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Apprenticeship System
General Electric
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General Electric History: The Shop Apprenticeship System for Boys - Machinist Course

[This is taken from pp. 8-20 of The Shop Apprenticeship System for Boys, a 52-page booklet published in 1917. Photographs are presented at original and 4x enlarged size.]

[First-year Machinist Apprentices Operating Boring Mill in Training Room - 1x | 4x]

[High-speed Milling Cutters made by First-year Machinist Apprentices - 1x | 4x]

[A Few Examples of Machinists' Work made by First-year Apprentices - 1x | 4x]

[Training Room for Machinist Apprentices - 1x | 4x]


The training room for Machinist Apprentices, shown above, is equipped with a variety of standard machines such as lathes, shapers, boring mills, plain and universal milling machines, universal grinding machines, cutter and reamer grinders, flat turret lathes, hand and automatic screw machines, spur and bevel gear cutting machines, cold cutting-off saws, power hack saws, drill presses, etc.

[Shop Apprentice Class in Mathematics - 1x | 4x]


First year    11c. per hour
Second year   13 1/2c. per hour
Third year    15 1/2c. per hour
Fourth year   18c. per hour

For especially good record in class and shop, the Company pays a premium in the form of a cash increase per hour. This varies in the different years. It is possible for the machinist apprentice to earn from 50c. to $1.50 per week in addition to his regular wages. This is based on a week of fifty hours.

At the present time, due to the unusual conditions, the apprentices share also in the special bonus paid monthly by the Company to its employees. Under this arrangement our apprentices are now receiving from $2 to $6 per month in addition to regular wages and special premium mentioned.

On successfully completing the four-year course a certificate and cash bonus of $100 are given.

[Here the booklet is stamped with:]

During the continuation of the war the rates per hour will be
1st yr. 17c. 2nd yr. 19c. 3rd yr. 21 1/2c. 4th yr. 26 1/2c.

[Machinist Apprentice at Work Making Dies in a Tool Room - 1x | 4x]

Machinist apprentices begin work in the training department. Competent shop instructors, graduates of this course of training, devote their entire time to directing the boys and showing them how to operate the machines successfully and to use tools properly on bench or floor work. All the work done by apprentices both in the training room and machine shops throughout the Works is part of the regular production. This makes the work thoroughly practical. In the beginning the more simple work is given to the apprentice, and as he shows an aptitude for the work and interest in it, he is given more difficult tasks.

After spending a year or more in the training machine shop, the machinist apprentice is transferred to one of the other machine shops or tool rooms in order to complete his training as a journeyman; but always under the supervision of the Apprentice Department co-operating with the shop foreman and the instructors. With the increased use of complicated machines it is necessary for a machinist to understand their use, to operate them successfully, and to rebuild and repair them when necessary. He must be a thinker as well as a worker. A course in drafting is given as an aid in attaining this result.

[Shop Apprentice Class in Mechanics - 1x | 4x]

A good working knowledge of arithmetic is necessary and is required, and it would be to the advantage of every machinist apprentice to avail himself of the opportunity offered in the classrooms to acquaint himself with geometry, trigonometry, and elementary mechanics.

Many of the machinist apprentices who have graduated have taken advantage of this opportunity, and some of them are filling more responsible positions as foremen and tool designers with the Company.

The Machinist Course covers a period of four years. Each year consists of 2537 hours.

[Machinist Apprentice Laying Out Work from Drawing - 1x | 4x]


In building a machine the idea is generally the thought of one man, or group of men - the designers, and the work of making and assembling the parts is done by other groups such as the machinist, assembler, moulder, and blacksmith.

Seldom can the designer be in direct touch with the several mechanics who are to work his design into the complete machine; therefore, he must have a medium through which he can accurately convey his ideas to each mechanic employed in the work. Many of the mechanics in the various shops have learned their trades in countries where different languages are spoken, and as a result of this, and the fact that all written languages are too complicated to convey complete working instructions, it is necessary that mechanics master what is known as shop language, regardless of his native tongue.

The graphic universal language of the shop, therefore, is Mechanical Drawing.

[Some of the Drawings to be Made by Each Apprentice as Part of his Training - 1x | 4x]

[Part of the Grammar Work of Mechanical Drawing - 1x | 4x]

To master any language it is as necessary to learn to write it as it is to read it. One must know the alphabet, some vocabulary, and the grammar work or construction to express an idea or thought correctly.

In learning shop language, the beginner should construct a few simple drawings, using the various symbols which constitute the alphabet, so that he may realize their value and recognize them quickly. After this, a thorough course of projections and developments, the grammar work of drawing, should be mastered. From projections he learns to locate points, lines, and surfaces on the different views of the drawing in a logical manner and by connecting these views he has a graphic picture by which he can convey his idea to a fellow workman. In reading a drawing, the eye, assisted by the trained muscles of the hand of the mechanic who has made drawings, enables the mind to grasp the designer's thought quickly and with a close comprehension of the original ideas.

[Shop Apprentice Class in Mechanical Drawing - 1x | 4x]

The mechanic should learn the art of making a drawing as well as the science of reading it, and thereby be able to interpret without error the drawing which has been given him or to suggest, if need be, any practical idea that will give it better adaptation to the shop work. Many good thoughts have been lost to the shop, through the inability of the workman to express his criticisms or additional ideas intelligently to the men in charge of the work.

There is nothing that will teach sense of proportion to the mechanic better than the making of accurate drawings. In planning the drawing it induces the mechanic to think of the proper material, the amount to be used, the most advantageous way to construct the pattern if one is required, and the final finish in the machine shop. From these data he can approximate the time consumed in the several operations as well as the kinds and reasons for the material used. For the shop executive or any other mechanic we cannot belittle the advantage that comes from sense of proportion regarding time and materials needed for a job which is under his supervision, as more time is lost and more material spoiled because of the inability to read drawings correctly, and in trying to develop an idea without a drawing, than for any other one cause.

[Specimen of Drawing made by a Fourth-year Draftsman Apprentice - 1x | 4x]

Therefore, the mechanic who has developed drawings is better able to express his ideas and impart them to others. His training makes it possible for him to read all drawings in less time, more accurately, and with far better understanding of the ideas which the designer intends to convey to workmen, than the mechanic who has not had training in the language of the shop, "mechanical drawing."



NOTE. - Any apprentice may, upon successful completion of the above course of study, take up the class work of the Drafting Course if he so desires.


Each apprentice shall submit at least 28 drawings, including projections, machine drawings, sketching, etc.

The time allowed for the completion of each plate is one month. No plate is required for the month of August.

Apprenticeship System
General Electric
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Updated 6/25/01
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