Apprenticeships continue to be a national concern

Recent data from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) indicates that there were 275,200 apprentices and trainees in training as at the end of March this year.

This represents a fall of 3.7 per cent compared to the March 2016 level. Nevertheless, it is an increase on the last quarter (December 2016) when the level was 264,200 – the lowest for a decade.

Commencements in the trades fell by 9 per cent in this period, whereas non-trade traineeships increased by 4.3 per cent.

What appears to be developing is a new and lower plateau of participation. The national level fell below 300,000 for the first time in September 2015. Since December 2015 the quarterly levels of participation have ranged between 264k and 285k.

Trades and non-trades commencements, seasonally adjusted and smoothed, March 2007 – June 2017

Source: Apprentices and trainees 2017, March quarter, NCVER

Source: Apprentices and trainees 2017, March quarter, NCVER

What contributes to this concern is the data released about VET in Schools participation for 2016. In 2016 there were 243,300 VET in Schools students, a decrease of 5.4 per cent on 2015.

Of particular concern is the state of school-based apprentices and trainees which make up only 7.1 per cent of all VET in Schools students. These have decreased by 14.4 per cent on the previous year to 17,200, the lowest since 2012. Most states and territories recorded a fall in participation with Northern Territory (44.7 per cent), Western Australia (36.7 per cent) and Queensland (21.4 per cent) recording the heaviest falls.

State and Territory summaries of school-based apprentices and trainees, 2012 -16

Source: VET in Schools 2016, NCVER

Source: VET in Schools 2016, NCVER

Both sets of data highlight a continuing concern about the state of apprenticeships and traineeships in Australia.

What are your experiences in regard to apprentices and trainees? Is this decline reflected in your business? What are your apprenticeship plans for 2017? Leave a comment below to start a conversation.

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Michael Taylor is Ai Group’s National Policy and Projects Manager, Education and Training. He is responsible for a number of national projects across workplace literacy and numeracy, skills, and the management of a mature age workforce. Michael also contributes to policy formulation across a wide spectrum of education, training and skills.

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