Celebrating Black History Month by acknowledging some of our great American inventors who started out as apprentices! JAN ERNST MATZELIGER
By Eric Ramsey- Director of Apprenticeships. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
As we celebrate Black History Month, I thought it was appropriate to highlight some of the great African American inventors who started out as apprentices. In a time when attending post secondary institutions wasn’t possible, apprenticeships offered African Americans and other minorities a way to gain competencies and knowledge to be proficient in highly skilled jobs. It wasn’t an easy path for them to learn these trades, but their incredible human spirit pushed them through segregation and racism to invent things that have changed the world forever. You may not know their names, but their inventions will be very familiar.
The first person that I’m spotlighting is Jan Ernst Matzeliger. Jan was a machine mechanic apprentice who developed a process for mass producing shoes. Typically, a highly skilled craftsman could produce 50 shoes in a day prior to his invention. After his invention, that same individual could produce 150 to 700 shoes in the same timeframe. This process made shoes more accessible for more people because the price of shoes was cut in half.
So let’s celebrate Black History Month by acknowledging some of our great American inventors who started out as apprentices!
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