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Continuing decline in Australian Apprenticeship numbers

The Federal and State Governments have been hard at work supporting Apprentices and Trainees to retain their positions throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic. However early indicators show that the nation will see a steep decline in Australian Apprentices securing positions, leading to even more shortages in the skills sector.

While the full extent of COVID-19 on the employment sector hasn’t yet been felt due to economic packages such as JobKeeper, we know that there has been a sharp decline in both the numbers of Australian Apprentices in training, and the number of new commencements.

This drop in commencements is not a new phenomenon. Data released this week from NCVER shows a 3.6% drop in commencements across 2019 compared with the previous year, and a considerable 12.3% decline from 2015.

More disturbingly, the decline in trade apprenticeship commencements was larger, with a 4.8% decrease in 2019 compared with the previous year, and an extraordinary 16.3% decline from 2015.

The change in commencements is not even across the board. Full-time positions, certificate III qualifications, new workers, and young workers (19 years and under) all showed declines in commencements.

Looking forwards, we know that 2020 will be one of, if not the worst year on record for Australian Apprenticeship commencements. It is clear that although COVID-19 has had an impact, that the Australian Apprenticeships sector has been in decline for some time.

It is positive to see the Australian Government and the States and Territories in discussion about how to revitalise the sector. It is vital that immediate action is taken to ensure we don’t lose a whole generation of skilled tradespeople. With the decrease in Australian Apprenticeships already disproportionally affecting young people who are new entrants to the labour market, we must prioritise school to work pathways.

Australia needs a long-term vision for restoring skilled trades and providing skills training to young people.

The Austarlian Apprenticeships and Traineeships Information Service (AATIS) is dedicated to providing information and resources to employers considering taking on an Australian Apprentice, and to promoting apprenticeships and traineeships to career researchers and job hunters.