Are state initiatives affecting apprenticeship numbers?

The latest quarterly data release about apprenticeships and traineeships was issued by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) on 5 September.

There were 276,250 apprentices and trainees in-training as at 31 March 2019, a decrease of 0.9 per cent from 31 March 2018.

Australian Training Activity March 2015 to March 2019

SOURCE: Apprentices and trainees in training 2019, March quarter, NCVER

In the 12 months ending 31 March 2019, compared with the 12 months ending 31 March 2018:

  • commencements decreased by 2.7%, to 157,800;
  • completions decreased by 1.8%, to 89,520; and
  • cancellations and withdrawals increased by 0.1%, to 89,465.

State comparisons provide an interesting picture. New South Wales offered free training for apprentices and capped training for trainees from July 2018. But commencements for trades have declined by 2.4 per cent in the 12 months to 31 March 2019 compared to the previous 12 months. For the same period, non-trade commencements declined by 1.1 per cent. Victoria has not changed its enrolment fee policy for apprentices and trainees. Their trainee numbers declined by 3.0 per cent but apprentice numbers increased by 1.9 per cent. Queensland has just announced a similar policy to New South Wales. Their trade numbers were down 1.7 per cent and non-trade down by a substantial 7.8 per cent (although this decline follows two years of strong rises).

South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania have all announced investments in the Skilling Australia Fund, which is a co-funded program to increase the number of apprenticeships and traineeships. South Australia’s focus has been on funding projects to increase numbers. Their trade commencements increased by 0.5 per cent and non-trade commencements increased by 2.1 per cent.

In Western Australia trade commencements declined by 5.8 per cent and non-trades by 13.8 per cent. They have recently announced employer incentives for new apprentices. Tasmania has also announced employer incentives. Their trade commencements increased by a healthy 10.5 per cent and non-trades increased by 2.8 per cent. Perhaps we need a closer look at Tasmania’s policies. Apprenticeship numbers have increased by almost a third since 2017.

Nationally, most individual trade occupations declined, but of interest for the manufacturing sector, metal trades increased by 10.8 per cent and electricians increased by 7.0 per cent.

Has your business taken advantage of any government programs in taking on apprentices or trainees? Are employer incentives a deciding factor in your decisions to engage new starters? Share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment below.

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Peter Canavan
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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