Founded in 1982 by long-time Briar and fine artist Carole Rae Watanabe, Apprentice Alliance was a matching service between those seeking new skills in the arts, trades, and business and those willing to serve as “masters.” Several hundred matches were made in the 10 years of its active life.

Logo Apprentice Alliance

As a result, several apprentices learned a new trade and started businesses of their own.

Winner of the "Best Social Invention of 1987" award from the Social Invention Institute of London.

The Apprentice Alliance

1985-1986 Directory

The Apprentice Alliance is a unique organization both in its underlying philosophy and in its function. Designed to recognize individuals who have achieved excellence in their chosen fields (“Masters”), and to help those who would learn from them (“Apprentices”), the Alliance meets two important practical needs.

First, it provides information for those wishing to locate someone with a particular expertise. As a nonprofit placement service, it matches apprentices with the learning experience they seek. Masters are listed in an annual directory, and the Alliance also seeks out new masters when requested.

Second, the Alliance facilitates the arrangement of a training relationship. Labor is exchanged for education—education is based on doing, under the tutelage of someone whose skills and values stand out as extraordinary.

How It Works

As a nonprofit organization, the Alliance charges only nominal screening and placement fees for both masters and apprentices. Masters pay $20 to join the Alliance, in return for which they are listed in the annual directory (more than 3,000 copies are distributed each year) and included in other publicity programs sponsored by the Alliance. The directory includes a biographical sketch of the master and a description of the nature of his/her work and expectations of an apprentice. When a match is made the master pays an additional $50 for each apprentice placed.

Apprentices also pay a $20 application fee and an additional $50 when satisfactorily placed. Other than these initial fees there is usually no monetary exchange between apprentice and master; the apprentice receives his or her training in return for labor. However, this need not preclude the possibility of a master offering a wage, particularly after a trial period in the apprenticeship. The length of service is worked out between master and apprentice. The master agrees to teach not only the primary skills of his profession but also the auxiliary skills, such as the keeping of financial records and the techniques of promoting and selling the finished work.

Are You a Potential Master?

Ideal “masters” for the apprenticeship program have proven to be self-sufficient small organizations or individuals with a strong commitment to the services or products they provide. They also have a strong sense of community, a willingness to share their skills and experience with others interested in pursuing meaningful work.

Masters are screened for the quality of their work and their willingness to share their skills with an apprentice. They may specify the number of apprentices, the minimum/maximum length of apprenticeship they prefer as well as the number of hours to be worked each week, and any skills or aptitudes they think essential in an apprentice.

Masters are sent all appropriate apprentice applicants after the applicants have been screened by Alliance staff. Monitoring of the placement by the Alliance staff continues throughout the life of an apprenticeship.

Master's Areas of Expertise

Master’s Areas of Expertise

  • Business
  • Computers
  • Fabric, Fashion Design
  • Film, Video
  • Fine Artists
  • Food-Related
  • Galleries, Related
  • Gardening, Nursery
  • Graphic Arts
  • Health, Fitness
  • House Finishing, Construction
  • Interior Design & Related
  • Jewelry-Making
  • Music & Related
  • Other Trades
    • Piano services, plumbing, car repair, mailing services, upholstery.
  • Performance
    • Tap dance, theater, circus
  • Photography
  • Public Relations, Promotion
  • Publishing, Printing, & Related
  • Repair Services
  • Service & Nonprofit Organizations
    • Schools, grant writing, services to arts organizations, development of live/work space for artists, farmers market, residential care
  • Silkscreen
  • Stained Glass
  • Travel
  • Weaving
  • Woodworking
    • Antique & furniture restoration, cabinet making, architectural woodwork

The Alliance served the community for nearly 10 years starting in 1982. Without the community members who volunteered to serve on the board of directors, the Alliance could not have functioned as well and as long as it did.

From the archives we’ve been able to identify at least one group of board members serving in 1988:

Apprentice Alliance, Board of Directors, December 1988

  • Catherine Campbell – Secretary
  • Patricia Ryan
  • Joshua Simon – President
  • Michael Stein – Vice President
  • Zack Stewart
  • Paul Terry
  • Carole Rae Watanabe
  • Louis Weintraub – Treasurer
  • Claude Whitmyer
  •  Lucille M. Phillips, Director
Logo Apprentice Alliance

A listing for the Apprentice Alliance in The Book of Visions: An Encyclopedia of Social Inventions (1992):

The Apprentice Alliance

An Apprentice Alliance is needed in the UK. In San Francisco, The Apprentice Alliance is a non-profit organization, that publishes 5,000 copies of its directory annually, matching would-be apprentices with over 200 ‘masters’, people who have ‘achieved excellence in their chosen fields.’ – craftsmen, cooks, gardeners, photographers, computer programmers, book designers, guitar makers, etc.

Masters are evaluated by the Apprentice Alliance for the quality of their work, their willingness to share their skills, and for the conditions of their workplace. The directory gives a biographical sketch of the master, a description of their work, and the master’s conditions for apprentices – length of service, minimum and maximum hours per week, and special aptitudes required.

“Matching would be with over 200 ‘masters’, people who have ‘achieved excellence in their chosen fields.’ – craftsmen, cooks, gardeners, photographers, computer programmers, book designers, guitar makers, etc.”

Normally, no payments or only small payments are made to the apprentices – labour is exchanged for education. Apprentices pay a total of $125 and masters pay $150 to the Alliance once satisfactorily matched, and the placement is monitored by Lu Phillips, the one Alliance staff member, who operates from a small office at the back of an artist’s studio. She reports that ‘when you match up someone who really wants to teach with someone who really wants to know, it is one of the finest one-to-one-relationships.’

Apprentice Alliance, ### XXXXXXX Avenue, San Francisco, California 94103, USA (tel 415 ###-####). This scheme was highly commended by the judges in the Social Inventions competition.