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Managing an Australian Apprentice

An important first step when managing an apprentice or trainee is to recognise that they may have little or no experience in a work environment.

While they will have a lot to learn, this does not mean that they are not able to make a valuable contribution from the very beginning of their apprenticeship. Many companies believe taking on apprentices and trainees is the main way in which they update the skills of their company.

This is only possible if an employer is committed to giving apprentices and trainees the opportunity to make a contribution, and valuing that contribution.

Expectations of supervisors

When taking on an apprentice or trainee employers are agreeing to help train them in the skills they need to become qualified. This means they need to show these employees how to perform tasks to the standard needed, and to guide them to achieve that standard.

This requires more than the usual amount of supervision. The Supervisor will also need to be aware of the training being completed through the Registered Training Organisation. 

Not everyone will be a good supervisor of apprentices and trainees. Sometimes there will be few options, but when considering who should take on the role it's important to remember that the supervisor will need to:

  • Have patience to train an inexperienced and probably a young person;
  • Will need to be able to explain tasks, probably more than once; and
  • Will need to be readily available to demonstrate and observe the apprentice’s performance.

There are some options for supervision training, some specialising in apprentice supervision.

Further information

Why is induction important?

A proper induction is always important for any new employee.  It's important they know something of a company's aims and work practices, and their role in these things.

An induction can cover many things, but as a minimum it should raise workplace safety, including any protective clothing and equipment, start and finish times, who to report to and any other key personnel the apprentice or trainee will deal with.  Apprentices and trainees will also need to discuss the training plan for the formal training component of their position.

As for any new employee, employers will need information like the apprentice's or trainee's tax file number, bank account details and superannuation details.

For further information

Have you considered mentoring?

Mentoring is about recognising the importance of developing both the skills and the character of employees including apprentices and trainees. It is about taking the time to coach them on the job and take an interest in their formal training.

Businesses that put resources into mentoring their apprentices and trainees achieve a much higher completion rate. Larger companies may employ people especially for that purpose, but there are resources available to help small business improve their own mentoring practices or tap into external support.

For further information

 

Support for employers and employees

Some agencies are available to support employers in managing apprentices and trainees.

Each state and territory government has field officers to help resolve difficulties with an Australian Apprenticeship. They will need to be consulted if either party is considering cancelling the contract of training.

Apprenticeship Network providers also support employers and potential apprentices, as will a Group Training Organisation if they are involved.

For further information

Young people and business

A common complaint from apprentice supervisors is that young people don’t want to put in the effort to learn properly, or spend too much time on their phones, or are more interested in activities outside work.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget what it was like to be young. Young people can be more impulsive, take more risks or they sometimes don’t think through the consequences of an action. These things can develop with more maturity.

Taking the time to understand younger generations can help improve relationships at work. Respect is a two-way street and if a supervisor makes an effort to understand their apprentices that is usually reciprocated in the future.

For further information

WHS, harassment and bullying

Apprentices are subject to the same workplace laws regarding safety, harassment and bullying as any other employee.

It is especially important for an employer to be mindful of these issues for apprentices because they are often young and inexperienced, and may be entering a culture where gentle bullying of apprentices was a long-standing tradition.

Employers should always be mindful of these issues and let staff know that poor behaviour is not tolerated.

For further information

Providing feedback

Providing feedback to apprentices is the best way for them to learn your ways of doing business. But there are good ways and bad ways to do it.

Negative feedback should be confidential and address ways to improve performance. Think about the reason for the feedback. Is it to vent frustration or gain improvement? If it’s more the former you should consider delaying the moment until you can discuss things calmly.

For further information

Difficult situations

Sometimes apprentices and trainees may encounter difficult situations, as will any employee. There may be issues involving alcohol or drugs, for example, or issues in the employee's personal life. Sometimes these issues may be the cause of issues at work such as poor attendance or poor performance, or problems with workmates.

There are often established ways to deal with these issues in workplaces and they should be considered in the same way as for other employees. For apprentices and trainees, there is also the option of discussing problems with service provider or government field officers or external mentors. RTOs may also provide support services for apprentices and trainees training with them.

Some apprentices will have financial concerns, especially if they are living independently. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has established a website called Money Smart that provides useful and understandable financial information for all Australians. It includes teaching resources designed for apprenticeship and traineeship teachers which may be useful.

For further information

State and Territory Apprenticeship and Traineeship Information for Employers

Fair Work Ombudsmen

Fair Work Ombudsmen

You can download templates to help you on a wide range of topics, including induction, timesheets and payslips.

Australian Government - Department of Education and Training

Dealing with problems

Your first point of contact for issues regarding an Australian Apprenticeship is your Australian Apprenticeship Support Network (Apprenticeship Network) provider.