Australia’s apprenticeship system needs to be completely overhauled to ensure it continues to train the skilled workforce we need for economic growth, competitiveness and productivity, according to the NSW Business Chamber’s latest “Thinking Business” report, Laying the Foundations for Apprenticeship Reform.
“Our apprenticeship system is in crisis,” said NSW Business Chamber Chief Executive, Stephen Cartwright. “The flow of young, job ready, skilled workers is at a drip when we need it to be a flood.”
The problem is two-fold: not only are participation rates in decline, but employers report a lack of job readiness and adaptability on the part of workers who are starting out in their trade. As a result, employers are increasingly turning to other sources of labour such as skilled migrants rather than employing apprentices to fill gaps in their workforce.
One of the issues affecting participation rates is how apprenticeships are perceived by young people, their parents, and often, their careers advisors, who do not see an apprenticeship as a desirable career pathway. This is despite the fact that 85.5% of apprentices have full-time jobs six months after completing their training, compared to 68% of recent university graduates, according to the 2015 Australian Jobs Report.
“What is missing from the careers conversation is recognition that the skilled trades are the backbone of our economy and will continue to offer great job prospects in the years to come,” Cartwright said.
Plan for a new apprenticeship model
The report proposes a new apprenticeship model involving an initial period of general industry training. This would include a year of general industry training before moving to a specialisation, "much like the model for undergraduate degrees at university".
Other recommendations include improved delivery of vocational training by schools, a national industry-led careers advice service and targeted incentive payments.
“Laying the foundations for a resilient, adaptable and industry aligned apprenticeship system will restore confidence, lift participation and ensure our next generation of workers is ready to meet the demands of the future,” says Cartwright.
Read the full report here.