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Mature Aged and Adult Apprenticeships Explained

The terms 'adult apprenticeship' and 'mature apprenticeship' can sometimes be confusing as they can mean different things depending on when they are used. Let's clarify what they mean and how this may impact your apprenticeship or traineeship.

Firstly, there is no such thing as an 'adult' or 'mature' aged apprenticeship as a separate program. The conditions of an apprenticeship or traineeship are the same for everyone whether you are 16, 25, 45 or 65 years old. Where the differences can apply are around wages and financial incentives.

The Fair Work Ombudsman describes adult apprentices as anyone who is 21 years of age or older when they start their Australian Apprenticeship. This may entitle you to a higher apprenticeship or traineeship wage. While this wage is generally higher than a ‘junior’ apprentice wage, it is usually lower than a typical full-time wage. Being paid a higher adult apprenticeship wage can act as a double-edged sword. Some employers prefer not to take on or cannot afford a more expensive adult apprentice or trainee.

From an incentives point of view, the Government classifies adult apprentices into two categories:

  • For apprentices that are 21 years or over an incentive may apply through the Support for Adult Australian Apprentices program.

  • For apprentices that are 45 years and over, an incentive may apply through the Mature Aged Workers Incentives program.

The incentives above are only payable to employers but may benefit older job seekers looking for an Australian Apprenticeship.

You can find more about Australian Government incentives from the Australian Apprenticeships Incentives Program Summary (current at 1 July 2019). This does not include potential state and industry-based incentives. You can find more information on our Adult Apprenticeships and Wages and Financial Support Information pages.

The terms ‘adult’ and ‘mature’ apprenticeships apply to wages and financial incentives, but have no impact on the actual apprenticeship you are completing.

You should also know that there is no upper age limit on apprenticeships and traineeships as long as you can do the work! In 2018, there were 10,055 Australian Apprenticeship commencements from the age of 45 to 65 years old. However, these apprenticeship and traineeship commencements are only around 2.7% (trade) and 9.6% (non-trade) of total commencements in 2018.

No one is too old to start an Australian Apprenticeship if you’re willing and able. The only age requirement is that you have to be of legal working age to become an Australian Apprentice.

Expectations on becoming an Adult Apprentice

Ongoing Commitments

Apprentice wages may be lower than working a normal full-time job. Older people and career changers tend to have more obligations such as family and/or financial commitments. Please manage expectations and plan ahead so you can support yourself through the time of your apprenticeship.

Here are some financial support and payments that Adult Apprentices can access through the Australian Government and Centrelink. Eligibility Criteria apply for all of the below:

  • Trade Support Loans
  • Living away from home allowances
  • Rent Assistance
  • Low Income Health Care Cards
  • Youth Allowance
  • Austudy
  • Abstudy

You can find detailed information about these financial support and payments in the Wages & Financial Support page.

Completed the Same Qualification

You cannot start an apprenticeship or traineeship if you have already done the same qualification. For example, if you studied and completed a Certificate III in Commercial Cookery as a course, you won’t be able to start the same Certificate III in Commercial Cookery as an apprenticeship.

The only way around this is to either negotiate an apprenticeship under a similar course or start an apprenticeship at a qualification above the one you have already completed. This may pose barriers as it requires the employer to agree with the qualification level and target occupation linked with the qualification which may be different to what the employer was originally looking for. More information about this topic is covered in the “Can I do an apprenticeship if I already have the qualification?” article.

It should also be noted that if you've completed a qualification a very long time ago, you may be able to redo a qualification. Talk to your local Australian Apprenticeship Support Network provider for further information.

Higher Level Qualifications and Degrees

The majority of apprenticeships and traineeships start at a Certificate II, III or IV level so you and your employer may not be subsidised if you already have a higher qualification, such as a Bachelor degree or a Certificate IV or higher. This doesn’t mean that you cannot start the Australian Apprenticeship, it just means you won’t get subsidised funding for the off the job training side of it. This results in either you or your employer needing to fully pay for the course.

The exception to this is if you start an apprenticeship that is in the National Skills Needs List. You can check if your Australian Apprenticeship occupation is in this list, here.

Your local Australian Apprenticeship Support Network provider can provide you with the most up to date eligibility information.

Your advantage of starting as an Adult Apprentice

Employers often prefer to hire someone who already has work experience. This does not need to be in the industry that you are starting your apprenticeships in; any work experience can be of benefit.

When employers are thinking about taking on an apprentice, the key attributes they are looking for are reliability, a good work ethic, eagerness to learn, and an understanding of a workplace environment. Older people who have been or are currently in the workforce have developed beneficial soft skills such as communication, teamwork, adaptability, problem solving, creativity, work ethic, time management and interpersonal skills.

Adult and mature apprentices may be more committed, as they have put a lot of thought in to which industry they want to train in, and they are willing to make sacrifices to get there.

For adult and mature apprentices with experience in the industry, there may be the potential to become qualified quicker through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). Please note that not everything can be used for RPL: you will have most success if you have experience working in a related occupation. For example, working out at a gym may not give you the technical skills for RPL towards a fitness traineeship, but if you have experience as a trades assistant you may be eligible for some RPL towards a trade qualification.

Keep all these advantages in mind when you go to your next interview, when you approach employers or even when writing up your resume and cover letter.

Key Takeaways

Doing your research is very important when looking at career change or entering a new industry. From knowing what apprenticeship you’d like to do, to identifying your starting wage, research is an important part of the journey.

Identifying what an adult apprenticeships is, and the perceptions around it, gives you a better understanding of the systems and processes when job searching.

Apprenticeships and traineeships are enty level positions open to anyone with the right attitude and work ethic. The people who succeeded are those who researched, understood expectations and are driven to start and finish an Australian Apprenticeship!

Further Information and Avialable Support Services