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Indigenous participation in Australian Apprenticeships

The participation and outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in vocational education and training (VET) has been mixed. Although Indigenous learners frequently undertake VET learning, this has frequently been in lower level certificates with lower employment outcomes. In the spirit of this year’s Reconciliation Week theme, Let’s Take the Next Steps, we take a look at Australian Apprenticeship pathways that Indigenous learners are taking.

Australian Apprenticeships can be done at any certificate level, or at Diploma or Advanced Diploma level, although the majority are undertaken at Certificate III. In the figure below we can see that for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous apprentices who commenced between July and September 2016, that the vast majority were studying a Certificate III. There are small but notable differences at the other certificate levels, with Indigenous learners more likely to be doing a lower level certificate while non-Indigenous learners are more likely to be doing a Certificate IV.

Figure: Commencements between July and September 2016 by Indigenous status and qualification level (%)

Commencements between July and September 2016 by Indigenous status and qualification level (%)

Popular qualifications for Indigenous apprentices

Looking at the most popular apprenticeship qualifications for Indigenous learners we see quite a mix of areas of learning. The top 10 Australian Apprenticeships commenced by Indigenous learners between July and September 2016 are:

  1. Cert III in Business
  2. Cert III in Early Childhood Education and Care
  3. Cert III in Carpentry
  4. Cert III in Business Administration
  5. Cert III in Hospitality
  6. Cert III in Retail Operations
  7. Cert I in Construction
  8. Cert I in Conservation and Land Management
  9. Diploma of Government
  10. Cert III in Commercial Cookery

Unsurprisingly, over half of these qualifications are those in the top 10 total commencements over that time period meaning that Indigenous learners are doing popular qualifications, many of which have good employment outcomes.

As discussed in the recent report Indigenous VET participation, completion and outcomes: change over the past decade (NCVER, 2017), Indigenous Australians are more likely to participate in the Australian Apprenticeships system than non-Indigenous Australians. However, Indigenous learners may not have the same outcomes as their non-Indigenous counterparts, including having lower completion rates and employment outcomes.

For more information

If you are considering starting an apprenticeship or traineeship, take a look around the website for more information on the steps to becoming an apprentice and the qualifications you can do as an apprenticeship in your state.


NCVER have released a range of products looking at Indigenous engagement with the VET sector. Have a look at their website for more information ncver.edu.au.

Tune into the upcoming NCVER webinar on June 7, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in education and employment outcomes: trends, challenges and strategies.

Data for this article was sourced from the NCVER Apprentice and Trainee Collection, September 2016, NCVER Vocstats.

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