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What are Adult Apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships and Traineeships are not just for youth. Adult apprenticeships can provide many benefits for an apprentice and an employer.

Australian Apprenticeships can provide a pathway to a career change for people looking to re-enter the workforce and for people who are currently working, or can be used as a way to up-skill within your current industry.  

The term 'Adult Apprenticeship' can be confusing, as it can mean something different depending on the context in which it is used.

The first thing to be aware of is there is no such thing as an 'Adult Apprenticeship' as a separate apprenticeship or traineeship type. Anyone of working age with eligibility to work in Australia can start an apprenticeship or traineeship. There are no specific apprenticeships or traineeships just for adults.

However, there are differences for adult apprentices and their employers around areas such as wages and financial incentives. Below is information to help understand the potential differences that adult apprentices and trainees should be aware of.

Who is eligible to do an apprenticeship or traineeship?

Anyone of working age and with eligibility to work in Australia can start an apprenticeship or traineeship. There is no maximum age limit.

A secondary school certificate or other qualification is not required, although employer preferences about achievements at school, skill levels and experience can play a large part in who they recruit. Some apprenticeships and traineeships may be physically demanding, so you should consider the role and whether you will realistically be able to undertake it.

For more information on the eligibility criteria to do an apprenticeship or traineeship go to our ‘What are Australian Apprenticeships’ page.

What is the age to be classified as an adult apprentice?

According to the Fairwork Ombudsman, an adult apprentice is anyone over the age of 21. Apprentices and trainees may be eligible to receive adult apprentice or trainee rates of pay set out in a relevant award.

However, employers taking on an adult apprentice may be eligible to receive the Support for Adult Australian Apprentices incentive if the age of the adult apprentice is:

  1. Aged 21 years or over when they start their Australian Apprenticeship on or after the 01 July 2019
  2. Aged 25 years or over when they start their Australian Apprenticeship prior to 01 July 2019

Do businesses employ adult apprentices or trainees?

Yes! The percentage of apprentices 25 years and older has increased compared with younger apprentices, since 1996. Between 1996 and 2018: 

  • Adult apprentices who commence in a non-trade, increased from 22% to 39%
  • Adult apprentices who commence in a trade, increased from 8% to 22%.

For more information, see NCVER's The changing nature of apprenticeships: 1996–2016: infographic, and for data from 2016 onwards, take a look at NCVER's Apprentice and Trainee Collection publications.

Ultimately, It is the employer's choice as to which applicant or employee they take on as an apprentice or trainee. Some employers look primarily for character and skills, while others may look at hiring from a financial point of view.

Some employers may not be able to afford to put on an adult apprentice. You may find this when contacting different employers or applying for apprenticeship or traineeship positions.

For tips and steps on how to find an adult apprenticeship or traineeship, visit our Adult Apprenticeship Job Hunting page.

Are you moving into a new industry?

It is important to be aware that if you are making a career change and are new to an industry or occupation, any previous qualifications, skills or work experience may not be formally recognised in your apprenticeship or traineeship.

Even though you are mature aged and have gained valuable ‘work experience’, these skills may not relate to the technical knowledge needed in that apprenticeship or traineeship. This may mean that you start as an ‘entry level’ apprentice or trainee, and will need to complete the apprenticeship or traineeship for the full duration.

Do you have existing experience?

If you have already gained skills, experience and knowledge through life experience, courses and qualifications, or work experience, this may provide you with credit towards the completion of a qualification that relates to your Australian Apprenticeship.

The formal method of comparing your skills, experience and knowledge to the training units that make up a qualification is called Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). You undertake an RPL assessment with a Registered Training Organisation, such as a TAFE or private training provider.

More Information on Recognition of Prior Learning

Incentives and Wages

It is important that you are familiar with the potential wages and government financial incentives that can apply to adult apprentices and trainees. Both the apprentice or trainee and employer should be familiar with the relevant pay rates and other features of the award. Employer incentives may contribute to an employer deciding to take on an adult apprentice or trainee.

Adult Apprenticeship Wages

Adult Apprenticeship Wages

The adult apprentice or trainee rate of pay is usually higher than that of a junior apprentice. To check adult apprentice rates of pay in specific occupations visit the Fairwork Ombudsman website or call them on 13 13 94.

Fairwork Ombudsman
Support for Adult Apprentices

Support for Adult Apprentices

The Support for Adult Australian Apprentices initiative provides financial support to an eligible employer of an adult Australian Apprentice through the Australian Apprenticeships Incentives Program. Eligibility criteria do apply.

Read more
Mature Aged Workers Incentives

Mature Aged Workers Incentives

Mature Aged Workers incentives may be provided to employers who employ a mature aged worker who is 45 years of age or older.

For more information, or to find out if you are eligible for this incentive, please contact your local Apprenticeship Network provider.

Search for a Provider
Restart Incentive

Restart Incentive

Restart is a financial incentive to encourage businesses to hire and retain mature age employees who are 50 years of age and over.

You can find more information about the Restart incentive below.

Restart Incentive

Speak with an Apprenticeship Network provider to find out if you are eligible for any financial support

Search for a provider