Literature review

Understanding the non-completion of apprentices

12 Jun 2014
Description

Approximately half of all apprenticeship contracts in the trades are not completed. This review draws together existing research and data to find out why apprentices do not complete their training.

Introduction: The aim of this review is to collate the existing research on the reasons why apprentices do not complete their training. The focus is on understanding the non-completion of trade apprentices, as attrition in these areas is generally viewed with particular concern.

An apprenticeship involves a contract between the apprentice and their employer, together with an arrangement with a training provider. Apart from these core players, apprenticeships take place within a wider system that is influenced by government policies and incentives, industry bodies and community attitudes. With this in mind, an examination of why apprentices discontinue their training needs to be approached from several angles.

The first section presents a snapshot of the apprenticeship system and the current rates of completion. Approximately half of all apprenticeship contracts are not completed, with some variation across states and occupations. Several data issues complicate the measurement of completion rates, but even accounting for these, completion rates are low.

The first section presents a snapshot of the apprenticeship system and the current rates of completion. Approximately half of all apprenticeship contracts are not completed, with some variation across states and occupations. Several data issues complicate the measurement of completion rates, but even accounting for these, completion rates are low.

Next, the employer’s role is examined more closely, as issues with the employment experience are frequently cited by non-completers. The characteristics of employers with high and low completion rates are examined. Employers with the highest completion rates tend to be larger, experienced employers with well-organised systems for managing apprentices. Smaller, less experienced employers tend to have lower completion rates. Given this discrepancy, we pay particular attention to the types of strategies employed by firms with high apprentice completion rates. These include rigorous recruitment processes, formal work plans and mentoring support services.

The training provider and opportunities for improving the training experience are the focus of the next section. The main problems are inflexible delivery options, poor feedback about apprentice progress, and the literacy and numeracy difficulties of apprentices.

The penultimate section considers the value of completing — if completion does not offer sufficient reward, it may explain the low completion rates. Benefits are examined in terms of wage premiums and employment prospects, and whether qualifications are considered necessary to work as a tradesperson. One finding is that the premium attached to becoming a qualified tradesperson is significant, but is not always enough to offset the opportunity cost of undertaking training, particularly for adult apprentices.

Finally, we summarise the main findings and suggest opportunities for future policy developments. Given that apprentices often leave because they do not like the work or it didn’t meet their expectations, more effort could be put into the selection process. Further, an employer accreditation process may help to ensure that only those employers with sufficient training capacity are permitted to take on apprentices; careful consideration of employer incentive payments may also help in this regard. There is also scope to consider alternative apprenticeship models, specifically those that reduce the pressure on employers.

Publication Details
Published year only: 
2014
22
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