Can we be doing any more on apprenticeships in Australia?

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

Like the last data release, there was some positive news, but overall the figures keep pointing downwards. There were 259,385 apprentices and trainees in-training as at 31 December 2018, a decrease of 1 per cent from 31 December 2017.

Australian Training Activity December 2014 to December 2018

SOURCE: Apprentices and trainees 2018, December quarter, NCVER

In the 12 months ending 31 December 2018, compared with the 12 months ending 31 December 2017:

  • commencements decreased by 3.7%, to 156,950;
  • completions decreased by 5.5%, to 88,865; and
  • cancellations and withdrawals decreased by 0.3%, to 89,485.

The decrease in commencements is concerning and represents a drop of 17.6 per cent since 2014. For trade occupations the decrease is not as bad at 11.3 per cent over 4 years, but trade commencements have flatlined since 2016.

Some trades are seeing positive figures. Metal trades have had an average commencement increase of 12.5 per cent in the past 12 months and electricians have increased by 6.6 per cent. On the down side, construction trades, including carpenters and plumbers, have decreased by 3.7 per cent.

Traineeship data continues to worsen. In-training numbers are down 30.2 per cent since 2014, and commencements were down by 6.6 per cent from the previous 12 months. The number of commencements for sales workers has dropped by almost half (45.6 per cent) since 2014.

Completions are also of major concern. The number of apprentices and trainees that completed in the 12 months to December 2018 (88,865) is 43.5 per cent worse than the number in 2014. For trades, the number is 39.6 per cent. A poor completion rate equals a poor investment in training, both for the employer and for the apprentice. Most research into apprenticeship completions points to difficult working relationships as the main cause.

The Commonwealth Government and most state governments have been announcing new initiatives to improve the numbers. Nationally, the Government announced a new Additional Identified Skills Shortage Payment to boost existing incentives for areas of identified skills needs. Most of the trades covered by this announcement are in the construction sector. There is also funding in the budget to support school-based vocational training and a new National Careers Institute, which may help improve the attraction of trades to young people.

In Western Australia, the Government announced a new employer incentive of up to $8,500 for new apprentices and trainees, funded through the removal of payroll tax exemptions for trainees. New South Wales offers fee-free training for apprentices and capped fees for trainees, while Victoria offers free TAFE training in a number of pre-apprenticeship qualifications. Queensland also offers free training for apprentices and trainees under certain conditions. South Australia continues to invest in the Skilling South Australia initiative, which aims to improve commencement numbers for apprenticeships and traineeships. Tasmania offers apprentice and trainee grants of up to $5,000 to small businesses in eligible target industries.

What do you think could be done to turn around this continuing decline in apprenticeships and traineeships? What could be done to achieve a better completion rate? Have your say and start a conversation by leaving a comment below.

The following two tabs change content below.
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.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.