Trade apprenticeships: what’s working and what’s not

Media release

12 March 2020

Apprenticeship commencements and completions in the traditional trades have remained relatively stable over the past 15 years, with shifts in demand broadly aligned to changing economic conditions, according to a new research suite released today by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

The reports Traditional trade apprenticeships: Training activity, employer incentives and international practice and Learnings from the field also show that the nature of employer incentives for the traditional trades have remained relatively stable, however the value of the base employer incentives in real terms has declined since 2012.

“These reports provide information on trends in the traditional trades in light of ongoing commentary on potential skills shortages, and in the context of overall declines in total apprenticeship and traineeship commencements and completions,” said Simon Walker, Managing Director, NCVER.

“They analyse the availability and effectiveness of government apprenticeship incentives in encouraging uptake or completion and also present some non-financial suggestions for improvement that may help to address some challenges the system is currently facing.”

These reports represent part 1 and 2 of a suite of work investigating the extent to which the traditional approach to trade apprenticeships in Australia still has merit, or if it needs adjustments to make it more relevant to current needs.

They examine the views and experiences of apprentices, tradespersons, employers, trainers and apprenticeship regulators on what aspects of the Australian system should be retained and what should be discarded or modified.

“Our fieldwork shows there is strong support for continuing the traditional apprenticeship combination of off-the-job and on-the job training under a training contract and provides some suggested improvements,” Mr Walker said.

“These improvements are less about financial incentives and more of a practical nature, such as consulting more with employers on when best to schedule off-the-job training, and better collaboration between employers and training providers to ensure that apprentices are learning up-to-date skills and the most modern technologies.”

“Our research also identified some lessons Australia could glean from the dual apprenticeship systems operating in Europe, including better synchronisation of knowledge acquisition and skills development in on-and-off-the-job training venues, higher qualification levels for teachers and trainers, and industry involvement in practical assessments.”

The reports Traditional trade apprenticeships: Training activity, employer incentives and international practice and Traditional trade apprenticeships: Learnings from the field are now available on our Portal.

Media enquiries: Helen Wildash, PR and Social Media Officer M: 0448 043 148 E:

About NCVER: we are the principal provider of research, statistics and data on Australia’s VET sector. Our services help promote better understanding of VET and assist policy-makers, practitioners, industry, training providers, and students to make informed decisions.

This work has been produced by NCVER on behalf of the Australian Government and state and territory governments, with funding provided through the Australian Government Department for Education, Skills and Employment.