Apprenticeship numbers remain low

The latest quarterly data release about apprenticeships and traineeships was issued by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) earlier this month.

There were some bright notes, but overall the picture is one of decline. There were 267,385 apprentices and trainees in training as at 30 September 2018, a decrease of 0.6 per cent from 30 September 2017.

Australian Training Activity September 2014 to September 2018

SOURCE: Apprentices and trainees 2018, September quarter, NCVER

In the 12 months ending 30 September 2018, compared with the 12 months ending 30 September 2017:

  • commencements decreased by 1.6 per cent, to 158,640;
  • completions decreased by 10.4 per cent, to 86,880; and
  • cancellations and withdrawals increased by 0.8 per cent, to 91,565.

On the plus side, trade occupations (broadly, traditional apprenticeships) continue to improve. Numbers in training increased by 1 per cent and commencements increased by 3.1 per cent compared with the previous 12 months. Most trades saw small increases, although food trades, including cooks and butchers, continue to decline.

Printing apprenticeships also declined. Their numbers in training in September 2018 (360) are now less than half those in 2014 (885).

More alarming is the traineeship data. In-training numbers declined by 3.4 per cent, and commencements were down by 5.3 per cent. The biggest declines were in part-time traineeships (down 12.4 per cent) and traineeships for existing workers (down 11.3 per cent). Sales workers showed the biggest decline for in-training numbers (11.1 per cent). The number of trainees at Diploma level and above declined by 8.2 per cent.

An interesting aspect of the data is training rates, which is the percentage of people in an occupation who are apprentices or trainees. For trades, the current training rate is 9.7 per cent, but this has steadily declined in recent years. For non-trade occupations, the training rate is now only 0.9 per cent.

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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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