Apprenticeships and traineeships are central components of the vocational education and training system. They provide the opportunity to train and study toward a nationally recognised qualification, combining on- and off-the-job training to enable individuals to develop their skills while participating in the workforce and earning an income.

Apprenticeships typically take around 4 years to complete, and involve training towards a skilled trade (for example, carpentry, electrical, plumbing or automotive) or non-trade (for example, hospitality or child care).

Traineeships are normally shorter in duration (1 to 2 years) and involve training in a vocational area such as marketing, administration or events management.

Apprenticeships and traineeships can be full time, part time or school based. School-based apprenticeships and traineeships are available for secondary school students who get on-the-job training towards a formal qualification while still completing their school studies.

 Who are apprentices and trainees?

1 in 10 trade workers are apprentices or trainees

In 2018, almost 1 in 10 workers in trade occupations were apprentices or trainees and 1 in 50 workers in all occupations were employed as an apprentice or trainee (NCVER 2019a).

As at 30 September 2018, 267,385 apprentices and trainees were training in Australia, a 21% decrease from 2014 (NCVER 2019a). Of the 2018 apprentices and trainees:

  • 25% were female (down from 30% in 2014) and 75% male (up from 70%) (NCVER 2019b)
  • 1 in 20 (5.3%) were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (up from 4.2% in 2014) (NCVER 2019b) (see Indigenous education and skills)
  • 65% were training for a trade (up from 57% in 2014), and 35% for a non-trade (down from 43%) (NCVER 2019a)
  • 1 in 50 (1.9%) had disability (NCVER 2019b)
  • the proportion undertaking full-time (81%) or part-time (19%) study remained fairly constant since 2014 (79% and 21% respectively) (NCVER 2019b)
  • 7.9% were school-based (up from 6.9% in 2014) (NCVER 2019b).

Trends

The number of people undertaking apprenticeships and traineeships was lower in 2018 than in 2008 (Figure 1). In 2009, commencements and completions began to increase alongside the Apprentice Kickstart initiative to address skills shortages in Australia, with a peak around 2012 (NCVER 2018c). This was followed by a sharp decline around 2012–2013. The decline coincided with Australian Government changes to incentive payments for qualifications not on the National Skills Needs List (Atkinson & Stanwick 2016) and was steeper for non-trades than trades (NCVER 2018c).

Time series analysis of apprentice and trainee commencements and completions shows that in the 12 months ending 30 June 2018:

  • there were 161,700 commencements, a decline from the peak of 377,000 in 2012 and at their lowest since 1998
  • completions (89,700) declined sharply since the peak of 214,500 in 2013 and were at their lowest since 2001
  • the number of cancellations and withdrawals (92,900) exceeded the number of completions (89,700) for the first time since 2001 (NCVER 2018c).

Age

Between 2008 and 2018, the proportion of people undertaking apprenticeships and traineeships reduced across all age groups (VOCSTATS 2018). In 2018:

  • 6.2% of all 15–19-year-olds (92,350) and 5.2% of 20–24-years-olds (91,147) were completing an apprenticeship or traineeship (down from 10% and 7.5% in 2008, respectively)
  • the proportion of 25–44-year-olds (1.0%) completing an apprenticeship or traineeship was half that of 2008 (2.0%)
  • the proportion of 45–64-year-olds completing an apprenticeship or traineeship was 0.3% (16,274), a decline from 0.9% in 2008 (Figure 2).

Of students aged 15–64 in training for an apprenticeship or traineeship in 2018, most were aged 15–19 (34%), followed by those aged 20–24 (34%), 25–44 (26%) and 45–64 years (6.0%) (VOCSTATS 2018). Between 2008 and 2018, the age profile of apprentices and trainees shifted, with an increased proportion of those aged 20–24 in training in 2018 (Figure 3).

Outcomes

More than half (53%) of apprentices and trainees who started training in 2013 had completed their apprenticeship or traineeship requirements by March 2018 (NCVER 2018b). Completions were higher (57%) and cancellations or withdrawals lower (37%) for those in a non-trade occupation compared with those in a trade occupation (completions, 47%; cancellations and withdrawals, 48%).

Of those who completed an apprenticeship or traineeship in 2018, 80% were employed after training (NCVER 2018d). Employment was higher for those who had completed a trade occupation course (91%) than a non-trade (77%) (NCVER 2018d). Younger age groups were slightly more likely to have improved employment circumstances after training (18–19 year olds, 55%; 20–24 years olds, 62%; 25–44 year olds, 60%; 45–64 year age group, 56%) than the 65 years and over age group (42%) (NCVER 2018d) (also see Employment trends).

Where do I go for more information?

For more information on apprenticeships and traineeships, see:

References

ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2018. Australian demographic statistics, June 2018. ABS Cat. no. 3101.0. Canberra: ABS.

Atkinson G & Stanwick J 2016. Trends in VET: Policy and participation. Adelaide: NCVER.

NCVER (National Centre for Vocational Education Research) 2018a. Apprentices and trainees: terms and definitions. Adelaide: NCVER.

NCVER 2018b. Australian vocational education and training statistics: completion and attrition rates for apprentices and trainees 2017. Adelaide: NCVER.

NCVER 2018c. Australian vocational education and training statistics: historical time series of apprenticeships and traineeships in Australia, from 1963. Adelaide: NCVER.

NCVER 2018d. Australian vocational education and training statistics: VET student outcomes 2018. Adelaide: NCVER.

NCVER 2019a. Apprentices and trainees 2018: September quarter—Australia. Adelaide: NCVER.

NCVER 2019b. Australian vocational education and training statistics: data slicer: apprentices and trainees, September 2018. Adelaide: NCVER.

VOCSTATS 2018. National apprentice and trainee collection through VOCSTATS. Adelaide: NCVER. Viewed 6 February 2019.

Alternative text for figures

Figure 1: Number of apprentices and trainees in the 12 months ending 30 June, by contract status and occupation type, 2008 to 2018

The line graph shows the total number of apprentices and trainees increased between 2008 (433,830) and 2012 (514,994) and then continued to decline until 2018 (269,720). Commencements increased between 2008 (289,113) and 2012 (376,991) then declined until 2018 (161,722). Completions increased from 2008 (148,531) to 2013 (214,528), then continued to decline until 2018 (89,695). Cancellations/withdrawals increased between 2008 (133,107) and 2012 (146,464), then continued to decline until 2018 (92,851).

Figure 2: Proportion of population that are apprentices and trainees, by age group, 2008 to 2018

The line graph shows that the proportion of people undertaking apprenticeships reduced across all age groups between 2008 and 2018. 15–19 years: dropped between 2008 (10.2%) and 2009 (9.4%), remained steady until 2012 (9.3%), and steadily decreased until 2018 (6.2%). 20–24 years: dropped between 2008 (7.5%) and 2009 (7.0%), increased to 2012 (7.6%), and steadily decreased until 2018 (5.2%). 25-44 years: increased between 2008 (2.0%) and 2012 (2.7%), and then decreased until 2018 (1.0%). 45-64 years: increased between 2008 (0.9%) and 2012 (1.4%), and then decreased until 2018 (0.3%).

Figure 3: Apprentices and trainees aged 15–64 years in training, by age group, 2008 to 2018

The vertical bar chart shows the age profiles of apprentices and trainees varied between 2008 and 2018. The proportion in the 15–19 years’ age group remained stable (2008: 34.2%, 2018: 34.3%), the 20–24 years’ age group increased (2008: 26.5%, 2018: 33.8%), the 25–44 years’ age group decreased (2008: 27.8%, 2018: 25.8%), and the 45–64 years’ age group decreased (2008: 11.5%, 2018: 6.0%).