Ai Group recently turned a spotlight on Australian Apprenticeships through the release of the Making Apprenticeships Work policy statement, which highlights the severe decline in commencements and those in training.
Apprenticeships have a significant impact on the Australian economy, providing the backbone of our production line of highly valued and adaptable skilled tradespeople. As Grant Anderson, Group CEO of ANCA, says in the policy statement:
“Many of the senior management at ANCA started their working life as an apprentice and we understand the importance of this learning pathway. Apprenticeships are the foundation of the development of careers in engineering.”
Yet the latest Apprentices and Trainees report from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), for the September 2015 quarter, highlights that there were only 295,300 apprentices and trainees in training – a decrease of over 13% on the same period the previous year and the lowest level of participation for a decade. It is the same story for commencements. The proportion of Australian workers employed as an apprentice or trainee has fallen to a worryingly low 2.7% of total employment. Australian apprentices and trainees now only make up 9.7% of all those participating in the entire Vocational Education and Training (VET) system.
Without urgent and meaningful intervention, the apprenticeship system in Australia will continue to underperform and fail to deliver for business and the community. A key challenge for Government is addressing these inconsistencies in the system, and making a commitment to facilitate greater engagement by industry and young people in this vital training pathway.
There is a need to find ways to improve and expand this work-based pathway into other industry and occupation areas and to encourage young people to consider an apprenticeship as a viable career option. In the UK, for example, “higher apprenticeships” have been introduced at a higher qualification level and in a wider range of different industries. This has boosted their numbers in apprenticeships. We should undertake some trials of similar arrangements and see if they work in Australia.
For our part, Ai Group has proposed an action plan. The adoption of these recommendations by all is essential to give the apprenticeship system the drive it needs:
- Employer incentives: implement employer incentives for those employers not currently engaged with Australian Apprenticeships to address the significant decline.
- Supporting New Employers and Completions: focus on supporting first-time employers of apprentices and provide funding support through Joint Group Training Program Funding to GTO’s.
- Linking to Higher Level Qualifications: trial a range of measures that link apprenticeships to higher-level qualifications in the VET and Higher Education sector.
- Expanding the Labour Market for Apprentices: investigate the introduction of ‘higher apprenticeship’ models which provide this pathway to a wider range of industries.
- Implement Competency Based Progression and Completions: implement a national communication strategy to develop mechanisms to facilitate RTOs to promote the outcomes.
- National Consistency and Complexity: establish a national industry-led oversighting body to drive the national Australian Apprenticeships policy.
- Participation in Apprenticeship Pathways: clearly define and support pre-apprenticeship programs as well as develop measures to support school-based apprenticeships.
What do you think about the state of Australian Apprenticeships? What do you think can be done to arrest this slide? What measures would you support? Add your comments below to start the conversation.
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