Apprenticeship data show mixed results

Apprentice commencements are up and trainee commencements are down, according to the latest data from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

The latest data is for the quarter ending 30 June 2018, and show overall commencements decreased by 0.6 per cent compared to the same quarter in 2017. But trade commencements, which correspond broadly to traditional apprenticeships, increased by 4.6 per cent and non-trade commencements (traineeships) decreased by the same percentage. Completions again decreased, by 7.1 per cent.

There were 269,720 apprentices and trainees in-training nationally as at 30 June 2018. This represents a fall of 1 per cent compared to the June 2017 level and continues the downward trend of apprentices/trainees in-training.

The graph below shows in-training numbers for trade and non-trade occupations. Apprenticeship numbers seem to have finally started to improve, but traineeship numbers continue to decline.

Australian training activity June 2014-June 2018

Source: Apprentices and trainees 2018, June quarter, NCVER

SOURCE: Apprentices and trainees 2018, June quarter, NCVER

The biggest changes are found when looking at particular occupations and particular states. In the engineering sector, sheet metal trades (including structural steel and welding) commencements increased by 24.6 per cent compared to the previous year but cooks have declined by 16.9 per cent. Some key trades and their commencement data are shown below.


The increase in trade commencements reflects the recent Ai Group Skills Survey which found that 35 per cent of employers intended to increase the number of apprentices and trainees over the next 12 months.

Recent government announcements about additional funding support for adult apprentices and apprentices in regional and rural communities may also help improve commencement numbers.

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Peter Canavan is a senior policy officer at Ai Group, contributing to education and training policy and managing projects including the Industry 4.0 Higher Apprenticeship project. He has previously managed national projects relating to apprenticeships. Peter has over 25 years experience in the vocational training sector, and has also managed projects for the Victorian Government, including apprenticeship projects and projects supporting workers retrenched from the automotive manufacturing sector.

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