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General Electric History: The Shop Apprenticeship System for Boys

[This 52-page booklet was published in 1917. Photographs are presented at original and 4x enlarged size. Further information on the apprentice program may be found at the General Electric Apprentice Alumni Association.]

[Cover | Title Page | Contents]

Shop Apprenticeship System for Boys

Schenectady Works of the General Electric Company

We do not commonly find that our men are educated for their employment. I have seen many shops where a fair proportion of the employees knew how to run some particular machine, but they did not know why they did this or that, and even their knowledge of one little segment of the business was largely a manual, and not a mental knowledge. They went through their motions with their hands and not with their heads.
A man who works with both his head and hands has along advantage over the man who uses only his hands.
- John Hayes Hammond.

Correspondence should be addressed to

General Electric Company
Schenectady, N. Y.

SW-1833 2500 10-1-17

It is Possible to Succeed4-5
Choosing a Trade6
Entrance Requirements7-9
Trial Period and Agreement10
Shopwork for Machinists10
Compensation for Machinists During Apprenticeship11-13
Mechanical Drawing or Shop Language14-18
Schedule of Classroom Work for Machinists19-20
Drafting Course21
Compensation for Drafting Apprentices22
Schedule of Classroom Work for Draftsmen23-24
Shopwork for Blacksmiths25
Compensation for Blacksmiths26
Moulding Course27
Compensation for Moulders28
Certificate of Apprenticeship29
Positions Held by Some of Our Graduate Apprentices30-31
Health and Safety32
General Electric Athletic Association33
Young Men's Christian Association34
Saturday Evening Entertainment Courses35
Alumni Association36
Edison Club Hall37-38
Living Conditions in Schenectady39
General Information41-42
Apprentice Agreement43-45
Graduates of Apprenticeship System46-50
G.E. Roll of Honor50
Your Opportunity51

[Bird's-eye View of the Schenectady Works of the General Electric Company: Largest Electrical Manufacturers in the World - 1x | 4x]

The principal offices and largest Works of the Company are located at Schenectady, New York. Ground area, 336 acres; floor space, 5,333,000 sq. ft.; employees 22,000.

The General Electric Company designs and manufactures electrical machinery and apparatus of nearly every description, steam turbines of small, medium, and large capacity, and many other mechanical devices of intricate design; the annual sales value of which exceeds a hundred million dollars.

The Shop Apprenticeship System was organized in 1901 at the Schenectady Works of the General Electric Company to prepare boys for profitable careers of industrial usefulness. It began with a systematized training in the various uses of machine tools. Later night classroom work was added, which was subsequently changed to day classes.

Up to July 1, 1917, the number of apprentices who had completed the prescribed course of training was as follows:

Machinists                  560
Draftsmen                   205
Moulders and Coremakers     123
Blacksmiths                   8
Total                       896

When an apprentice has successfully completed his term of service a diploma is granted in recognition of the satisfactory termination of the course. The Company also continues these young men in its employ when they become journeymen and pays them wages according to their ability.

The most capable men who have served their apprenticeship are placed in line for promotion to positions of responsibility, as foremen, tool designers, etc., as there is always a demand for good workmen in the Company.

[Main Office Building - Schenectady Works - 1x | 4x]


Boys who have creditably finished the grammar school course, and are in earnest to learn a trade, and willing to work and co-operate in every way to attain this end, need not be discouraged over the fact that their fathers and grand fathers were not skilled artisans. A number of our young men have made good whose fathers are classified as unskilled. One of our graduates whose father is a laborer, is employed as a tool designer; another, whose father is a janitor, is employed as foreman, while several others, who finished the machinist trade in 1916, were paid the highest rate of wages on completion. All of these young men made good use of their time and opportunities.

Of course, it is nothing against a boy to be the son of a skilled mechanic, provided he does not assume his father's skill and reputation will carry him through. Every one must stand on his own feet and win his own way. An earnest determination coupled with a cheerful willingness to co-operate with all persons with whom he has to deal is a long step on the way to success.

Our foremen, instructors, and journeymen are always willing to help the young man who is trying to help himself, and naturally they lose interest in the boy who is careless, indifferent, lazy, and discourteous. It, therefore, pays to be earnest, energetic, and skillful in your work.

[The Research Laboratory of the General Electric Company in Schenectady - 1x | 4x]


The choice of a trade is a problem that should receive serious attention by the boy and his parents, or guardian. It should not be solved by a sudden impulse, but by repeated talks together and with friends who are in a position to advise, and in this way help to discover the particular trade that appeals to the boy.

As far as possible a boy should select work that appeals to him. It is always well to remember that work of any kind may become unpleasant and distasteful at times, making the other fellow's job look more attractive when viewed from the outside.

In each trade, a variety of work is furnished to enable the apprentice to become a skillful workman. However it requires constant practice, patiently and carefully followed, to make a success.

The only way to learn to do a job, is to do it, and then to repeat it enough times to make it familiar and easy to do quickly. The Apprenticeship Course is intended to furnish this opportunity, and a boy regularly indentured under a four-year agreement and taking full advantage of such opportunity should become an all-round skillful mechanic.

Class work is given of such character as to be of assistance to the apprentices in their work and to develop their thinking and reasoning ability. Mechanical drawing and shop mathematics are the principal subjects taught in connection with this training.

[Interior of Turbine Building No. 60 - 1x | 4x]


The applicant must have a definite idea of the trade he wishes to take up. No application will be considered where it is evident that the only consideration on the part of the applicant, his parent, or guardian, is that of finding employment.

Applicants must have good habits and come well recommended; be of respectable parents and between sixteen (16) and eighteen (18) years of age inclusive, and able to speak, read, and write English.

For the trade of machinist, preference will be given to boys just leaving school, as they have not yet lost their habit of discipline, obedience, and study, and they naturally retain more of what they have learned in school. We find that a year or two out of school makes a great diference in this respect. It is quite remarkable how soon many of the boys forget the knowledge they acquire at school. It is expected that all boys will have finished the eighth grade at least before making application for apprenticeship.

Applicants desiring to enter the Machinist Course are required to pass an examination in arithmetic covering common and decimal fractions and denominate numbers.

Applicants desiring to enter the Moulding and Blacksmith Trades are required to pass an examination in arithmetic covering common fractions.

Applicants desiring to enter the Drafting Course are required to pass an examination in complete arithmetic, including mensuration, metric system, square and cube root.


The trial period extends from 30 to 60 days. If the applicant, at the end of this time, shows adaptability for the trade he has chosen, he will be required to sign, in connection with his parents, or guardian, a regular form of "Apprentice Agreement" covering the entire four years period of training. This agreement is also signed by a representative of the Company. A copy of this form of agreement will be found on page 41.

Machinist Course

Drafting Course

Blacksmith Course

Moulders' Course

Certificate of Apprenticeship

July 16, 1912.


Hereafter when selecting persons to fill the position of assistant foreman or other subordinate executive positions consideration should be given to graduate apprentices. It is the belief that the necessary talent may be found among such graduates who not only have received four years' practical training in our shops but also have been instructed in mathematics and mechanical drawing. It is desirable that inducements should be offered which will tend to retain in the Company's employ as large a proportion of its graduate apprentices as possible, and it is the belief that if it were generally known among them that they would be considered in connection with vacancies in the executive force, it would be an added incentive to them to remain in the employ of the Company.

Please bear this in mind.

G. E. Emmons, Manager.



[An Applicant Taking the First Test for Eyesight in the Examination Room - 1x | 4x]

Systematic plans have been developed for the selection of an efficient working force and the maintenance of a high physical, mental, and moral standard throughout the Schenectady Works.


Every new employee must be examined - even consulting engineers. This has been the procedure in the General Electric Company's organization since 1914 - without exception or favoritism.

State laws, careful inspections, and alert safety committees have resulted in the safeguarding of machinery and the elimination of unsafe practices, until injuries, chargeable to such causes, are no longer an important item throughout the Works.


[Bird's-eye View of General Electric Athletic Association Grounds - 1x | 4x]

We recognize the need of proper physical development of young men and also the advantages to them of a reasonable amount of good entertainment and clean wholesome sports.

We wish to direct the attention of apprentices to some organizations in Schenectady intended to contribute to this need.


This Association is for the benefit of employees of the Company and the annual dues are low enough to enable anyone interested to become a member. The special membership rate for apprentices is $1 a year. This entitles members to all the privileges of the grounds and the use of tennis courts, club house, and admission to all base ball games. The rifle range is fifty cents a year extra.

[Base Ball Field, General Electric Athletic Association - 1x | 4x]

Local base ball teams organized in the shops and offices compete for honors, the games being played evenings after work. The grounds are furnished by the Company free, and the expense of maintenance is taken care of by the Association.


The Young Men's Christian Association maintains a building near the Works of the General Electric Company which is equipped with gymnasium, swimming pool, shower baths, and reading room. These are under the supervision of competent men. The regular membership includes the use of these, together with admission to the entertainment course during the winter.

Good bowling alleys, pool and billiard rooms are a part of the equipment, but a small charge is made to members for the use of these privileges.

[Tennis Courts, General Electric Athletic Association - 1x | 4x]

Full membership for young men from sixteen to eighteen years of age is $6 a year, and for those over eighteen years $8 a year.

The Y. M. C. A. has about twelve hundred members and is planning a campaign for a new building in the near future.


For several years past some of the churches have been conducting Saturday evening entertainment courses, the purpose being to furnish an entertainment of the very highest class for all who care to attend.

[A Regatta Scene on the Mohawk River - 1x | 4x]


The interest and good work of some of the graduates have resulted in the formation of an active Alumni Association officered and controlled by its members. Aside from the advantages of becoming better acquainted with the men who have completed their four-year course and received their diplomas, there is the additional educational advantages to be found in the lecture course conducted during the winter, and in visiting manufacturing plants in nearby cities to study methods of work.

The annual banquets of the association afford opportunity to listen to speakers with a message, combining instruction with entertainment.

[Edison Club Hall - 1x | 4x]

EDISON CLUB HALL, an attractive building having an auditorium seating about 400, is the center of lecture activity during the winter months. Speakers are usually men of note from colleges or department heads of the Company. During the past winter the following men of the General Electric Company lectured upon subjects of interest to the students of the Apprenticeship Course.

Mr. E. F. Collins, Technical Supt., Schenectady Works, subject: "Some Applications of Electricity to Industrial Heating."

Mr. Chas. H. Franklin, General Foreman, Drop Forge Department, subject: "Drop Forging."

Mr. W. L. R. Emmet, Consulting Engineer, subject: "Ship Propulsion."

Mr. P. O. Noble, Designing Engineer, subject: "Direct Current Motors."

Mr. Chas. J. Wiltshire, Superintendent of Iron Foundry, subject: "Foundry Work and Pattern making."

[Summer Noonday Concert on the Works Avenue - 1x | 4x]

The Alumni Association has made it a practice to extend an invitation to all apprentices to attend these lectures, and many have gladly availed themselves of this privilege.

The Schenectady branch of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers has also extended a helping hand; and during the past winter invited both the alumni and apprentice bodies to attend a valuable and instructive lecture delivered by Mr. Cathcart of Philadelphia, a former officer in the United States Navy. Subject: "Our Navy and Naval Bases."

[The Mohawk Valley - 1x | 4x]


The City of Schenectady has many natural advantages which make it attractive. Its homes make provision for young men of the apprenticeship course at reasonable rates.

Apprentices who come to us from other places than Schenectady desiring to find comfortable homes are given assistance upon their arrival.

Living conditions vary according to location and service. Rooms may be found from $1.50 to $3 a week; board from $4.50 to $7 a week. Room and board in same house from $6 to $8 a week.


[Main Library of the Schenectady Works - Building No. 2 - 1x | 4x]

The General Electric Company maintains a well equipped library within the Works containing nearly 4000 bound periodicals and books as well as some 800 pamphlets and magazines. It does not make any difference what your particular work may be in the Company - you will always find in this Library some book or magazine to help you to increase your knowledge, enabling you to do your own particular work better.

The Free Public Library of the City of Schenectady is also centrally located and in addition to the books that are available for home reading, there are newspapers and a large variety of magazines on file in the reading rooms.


Apprentices in their fourth training year may have an opportunity to work by the piece whenever it is desirable or practical to do so. Their earnings when so working are determined in accordance with the contract, which provides that in addition to the day rate the individual is entitled to 50 per cent of the difference between his day rate and the value of work done by the piece when figured at the standard rate paid journeymen for such work.

Apprentices shall be subject to all rules when in the shops and will work under direction of the foreman of the department where employed, and must not absent themselves from work, unless in case of sickness, without permission of the foreman.


All apprentices are required to be prompt in starting work at the hours assigned, and attentive to their duties during the regular working periods.

If absent on account of illness, word must be sent promptly to the department where employed, or to the office of the Superintendent of Apprentices. Any apprentice desiring to be absent from his work for causes other than illness, must first make arrangement with the foreman for whom he is working.


All drafting, machinist, and blacksmith apprentices who have met the requirements of the course and completed the prescribed course of study will be given a "Certificate of Apprenticeship" and a gratuity of $100.

All moulder apprentices who have met the requirements of the course and completed the prescribed course of study will be given a "Certificate of Apprenticeship" and a gratuity of $50.


When an apprentice signs the agreement it is assumed that he has an earnest intention, and that he has in mind the good he can get out of the work both in the classrooms and in the shops. He is, therefore, expected to apply himself diligently and thoughtfully to the task of making himself a more useful man, not only to his employer, but to the community in which he may live in the future.

The apprentice is also expected to decide for himself certain rules of conduct which will establish his reputation for honesty, sobriety, and self-control not only in the shops but in his home.


When the parent or guardian signs the agreement it is expected that they will co-operate with the Apprentice Department by careful supervision of the apprentice while away from the Works, by urging him to give a certain amount of time each week to his home work in mathematics and drawings, and to see that some consistent plan is adhered to in this, as well as for suitable recreation and pleasure. The interest of the parent, especially the father, in these matters will be reflected in the interest of the apprentice in his work and his general advancement.

If the applicant's home is out of reach of daily car line service, arrangements must be made for him to live with some relative or guardian in the city, who will be responsible for his welfare when away from the Works, and with whom the department can correspond on matters dealing with his work and conduct as an apprentice.


Application, stating age, education, or any other training may be made by letter, addressed to Superintendent of Apprentices, General Electric Company, Schenectady, N. Y., or in person accompanied by parent.


The following form of agreement is entered into between the boy, his father or guardian, and the Company:

THIS INDENTURE made this ... day of .........., 191_, by and between .........., a minor, residing at .......... in the County of .......... and State of .......... hereinafter called the apprentice, party of the first part, .......... and .........., of .......... Parent (or Guardian) of said apprentice, party of the second part, and General Electric Company, a New York Corporation having its principal place of business in the City of Schenectady, New York, herein after called the Employer, party of the third part;

(1) WITNESSETH that the said apprentice, who is a minor, of the age of __ years on the ..... day of .......... 191_, with the consent of said party of the second part, which is evidenced by the joining of said party of the second part in this instrument, does hereby, of his own free will, bind himself to well, honestly, faithfully and industriously serve the GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY at their works in .......... as a .......... Apprentice for a full term of four (4) years, commencing .......... 191_ and ending.......... 191_, or as hereinafter provided. Each year is to consist of .......... (.....) hours, of which not more than .......... (.....) hours without pay, shall, in the discretion of the Employer, be allowed each year for recreation, etc.

(2) Should any lost time occur it shall be made up by said apprentice at the end of each year, and no year of service shall commence until the time lost in the preceding year, and the prescribed work for that period in Mathematics and Drawings, if any, has been fully made up. The Employer reserves and shall have the right at any time to discharge the apprentice for cause, and thereby be released of its obligation hereunder and should the state of business demand it, to suspend him, wholly or in part, and the making up of time so lost shall be at its discretion; should suspension be necessary, he shall, if he so requests, receive a statement giving length of service and why suspended.

(3) For each hour of actual service rendered the apprentice shall be paid the following:

1st year ..... cents per hour
2nd year ..... cents per hour
3rd year ..... cents per hour
4th year ..... cents per hour

(4) When working piece work, the apprentice will be allowed, in addition to his wages, as above specified, fifty (50) per cent of the difference between his regular wages and the amount regularly paid by the Employer to others for such piece work.

(5) And the said apprentice agrees that he will not leave said Employer during the term for which he is indentured; and the said party of the second part agrees to provide suitable and proper board, lodging, and medical attendance for the minor during the continuance of this agreement.

(6) It is further agreed, that, except in case of sickness, legal holidays, or days on which the Works are closed, said apprentice will not absent himself from work for any cause without permission of his foreman, arid that he will attend class sessions regularly as required, for which he will receive the same hourly rate of wages as for regular work. The apprentice will be required to perform his duties with punctuality, diligence and fidelity, and to conform to the rules and regulations which are or may be adopted for the government of the shops.

(7) And the said Employer agrees that it will teach, or cause to be carefully and skillfully taught, to such apprentice, every branch of the trade to which such apprentice is indentured, and that at the expiration of such apprenticeship, if said apprentice shall serve the full term of apprenticeship (including the making up of lost time, and the prescribed work in Mathematics and Drawings, if any), in a faithful and satisfactory manner it will give such apprentice a certificate in writing, that such apprentice has served at such trade or craft a full term of apprenticeship as specified herein, and the sum of One Hundred Dollars ($100.00).

(8) If the apprentice be retained in the employ of the Employer at the completion of his full term, he shall thereafter be paid a rate of wages commensurate with his ability as a journeyman, giving due consideration to the condition of business.

(9) All wages earned under this agreement shall be in lieu of all maintenance and shall be paid to and receipted for by the apprentice on the regular pay days of the Employer as may be established from time to time.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the several parties have hereunto set their hands and seals, the day and year first above written.

Signature of Apprentice ................................ [L.S.]
    "     "  Parent .................................... [L.S.]
    "     "  Guardian, if any........................... [L.S.]
    "     "  Employer
(GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY By)........................... [L.S.]




The electrical industry is full of inducements to every ambitious and able young man. During the past ten years the number of men and women in salaried positions and as wage earners in the electrical manufacturing and operating industry in the United States has more than doubled. At the present time it is estimated that employment is given to over ten million. During normal times the General Electric Company alone employs over sixty thousand in its various works and offices.

If it is your desire to get into a business where there is a future, if you want to make something of yourself, if you want to climb up higher, you will find no better opportunity than is offered by the General Electric Company in the Shop Apprenticeship System.

The educational facilities of the Company are not confined to the principal works at Schenectady. Apprenticeship Courses, similar to those taught at Schenectady, are maintained at its works in West Lynn, Mass., Pittsfield, Mass., Erie, Pa., and Fort Wayne, Ind.

Select the course that you want to take up; write to the General Electric Works nearest to your home for an application blank; fill it out and send it in. After it has been approved, and you have passed the physical examination, start in with a determination to win.

There is no spring, summer, or fall term; apprentices are accepted any time of the year.

Nothing in this world is so good as usefulness. It binds your fellow-creatures to you, and you to them; it tends to the improvement of your own character, and it gives you a real importance in society, much beyond what any artificial station can bestow. - Sir Benj. Brodie.
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