How the Igbo Apprenticeship System Shapes Skilled Professionals

The Igbo apprenticeship system is a unique and time-honored tradition that has been practiced by the Igbos, a prominent ethnic group in southeast Nigeria.

This system serves as a form of educational transfer, where a master craftsperson and an apprentice enter into a mutually beneficial relationship. Through this system, the apprentice learns the skills and knowledge required to master a trade, with the ultimate goal of establishing their own business. 

This article looks into the various stages of the Igbo apprenticeship system, its benefits, and its impact on the local economy.

The Learning Stage

The Igbo apprenticeship system consists of two main stages: the learning stage and the practicing stage. During the learning stage, the apprentice spends significant time under the guidance of the trade master, learning the necessary skills and principles of the trade.

However, before the trade master proceeds with the training, they assess the apprentice’s willingness to learn, perseverance, and trustworthiness.

Trustworthiness is of utmost importance in the Igbo apprenticeship system, as the trade master imparts valuable trade secrets to the apprentice over time.

The apprentice learns essential business practices, such as negotiation techniques, building customer relationships, sourcing affordable goods, and setting prices.

This immersive learning experience is further enhanced by the apprentice residing with the trade master, allowing for full-time learning and immersion in the trade.

Graduation and New Beginnings

The final stage of the Igbo apprenticeship system is graduation and new beginnings for the apprentice. Upon completing the agreed-upon term of training and employment, the apprentice becomes eligible for a settlement from the trade master.

This settlement is typically provided in cash, although alternative arrangements may be made based on prior agreements. The settlement serves as seed capital for the apprentice’s entrepreneurial journey, enabling them to establish their own business venture.

In some cases, the trade master goes beyond providing cash settlement and assists the apprentice in acquiring a store and stocking it with inventory. This in-kind settlement allows the apprentice to launch their business with little initial capital outlay.

The trade master continues to provide strong supervision and guidance to the apprentice during the first three years of their business, ensuring a smooth transition into independent entrepreneurship.

Recommended Read: 6 Steps You Should Take to Start a Business in Nigeria

Benefits of the Igbo Apprenticeship System

1. Economic Empowerment

The Igbo apprenticeship system offers a unique approach to economic empowerment that aligns with the cultural values of the Igbos.

Unlike importing foreign economic concepts, the apprenticeship system takes into account the socioeconomic realities of the local environment, fostering business growth and stability within the community.

By leveraging their accumulated market leverageable factors, participants in the apprenticeship system create livable clusters and support stakeholders, contributing to the overall economic well-being of the region.

2. Mentorship and Guidance

Mentorship plays a pivotal role in the Igbo apprenticeship system, providing apprentices with access to experienced role models who can guide them in both professional and personal matters.

Mentors share their wealth of knowledge and experience, helping apprentices make informed decisions and avoid common pitfalls. Topics of mentorship may include pricing strategies, customer relationship management, and effective negotiation techniques.

The guidance provided by mentors contributes to the overall success and resilience of the apprentices’ business ventures.

3. Combating Poverty and Unemployment

The Igbo apprenticeship system has played a significant role in combating poverty and unemployment in Nigeria. By providing aspiring entrepreneurs with the necessary skills, knowledge, and support to establish their own businesses, the system creates economic opportunities and empowers individuals to become self-reliant.

Many successful business people attribute their success to the Igbo apprenticeship system, which has not only lifted individuals and their families out of poverty but also contributed to the overall economic development of the region.

4. Access to Initial Capital

One of the major challenges faced by new businesses in Nigeria is the limited availability of financial resources.

The Igbo apprenticeship system addresses this challenge by providing apprentices with a settlement from their trade masters upon completion of their training. This settlement serves as initial capital for the apprentices’ business endeavors, enabling them to invest in inventory, equipment, and other essential resources.

The availability of this initial capital significantly reduces the barriers to entry for aspiring entrepreneurs, fostering business growth and innovation.

5. High Success Rate

The Igbo apprenticeship system has demonstrated a remarkable success rate, with a significant number of apprentices who have passed through the system achieving success in their businesses.

By learning directly from experienced trade masters and gaining access to unprocessed market data, apprentices are equipped with valuable insights and strategies that contribute to their business’s success.

This firsthand knowledge of market demands and consumer preferences gives apprentices a competitive edge and helps them position their businesses for long-term growth.


The Igbo apprenticeship system is a remarkable tradition that fosters economic empowerment, entrepreneurship, and innovation within the Igbo community.

The unique blend of mentorship, experiential learning, and cultural values embedded in the apprenticeship system contributes to its high success rate and its positive impact on poverty reduction and job creation.

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