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Apprentice & Trainee numbers slide, but outcomes are high

Apprenticeships and traineeships can be a good way to get into the workforce for new workers, and to upskill or reskill for career changers.

New data from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) shows that Australian Apprenticeships have fantastic outcomes for those who complete, but can also have good outcomes for those who don't complete. Unfortunately, apprentice and trainee commencements have dropped again, meaning there are fewer people gaining the benefits of an Australian Apprenticeship.

Benefits of completing an apprenticeship

Apprentices and trainees who complete their training are satisfied with their apprenticeship or traineeship (88.4%), are employed or doing further study (91.2%), and get paid well ($59 600 median).

Comparing trade and non-trade apprentices and trainees, those in trade areas were more likely to be employed (92% vs 85%), employed in the same occupation as their training (50% vs 38%), and earn more ($62 800 vs $54 700). Trade apprentices and trainees were less likely than non-trades to be employed with the same employer as their training (57% vs 66%), or be enrolled in further study (23% vs 30%).

Although the employment outcomes were better for those who completed their apprenticeship or traineeship compared with those who didn't, there are some positive signs for non-completers. Overall 74% of non-completers were employed, 18% with the same employer as their apprenticeship or traineeship. 80% were either employed or in further study, and 21% were working in the same occupation as their training.

Unsurprisingly, those who completed their training were more satisfied with their apprenticeship or traineeship than those who didn't complete (88% vs 50%).

For those who didn't complete, the main reasons were due to the employment (73%), for personal reasons (14%), or training related reasons (11%). The main issues with employment were not getting along well with the boss or other employees (9%), losing their job (9%), or not liking the type of work (6%), changing careers (14%) and getting a better offer (9%).

Completing an apprenticeship or traineeship is a fantastic pathway into further work. We need to ensure that those who don't complete are also supported into further employment or education, and if possible, remove the employment and training related barriers to their non-completion.

Commencements drop again

The June 2019 quarter shows that overall commencements have declined, due to a significant drop in trade commencements (-19.7%) and an increase in the non-trade areas (+9.3%), in comparison to the same quarter in 2018. This is a worrying picture, as apprenticeships in the trade areas are often the primary pathway into that occupation. Fewer commencements is likely to mean less qualified tradespeople in the future!

The drop in trade commencements compared to the same quarter in 2018 was seen across most of Australia, with the largest declines seen in Victoria (-29%), South Australian (-23%), the Northern Territory (-20%), and New South Wales (-18%). New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland are the three largest states for commencements, and all saw decreases of more than 15% in the quarter.

The drop in trade commencements wasn't limited to a single industry, although some fared worse than others. Construction, Plumbing and Services saw a 39% decline, which includes apprenticeships such as bricklaying (-61%), carpentry (-43%), and plumbing (-37%). Other notable decreases include the Furnishing industry (-37%), Hairdressing and Beauty Services (-23%) and Meat Processing (-15%).

Many of the occupations covered by these industries are on the National Skills Needs List, and are having shortages across much of Australia. Without employers taking on the next generation of tradies through an apprenticeship, this skills shortage is only going to get worse. Worryingly, we are also seeing some areas of high youth unemployment, with an apprenticeship or traineeship pathway a fantastic way for these young people to get into the workforce.