The concept of utilising apprenticeship like models of training at higher qualifications levels to address the evolving skill needs of Australia’s workforce is an emerging issue. Internationally, the application of the apprenticeship model (or similar) at higher vocational education and training (VET) levels, and in higher education, has fuelled discussions on whether these different models could or should be considered in Australia. In addition, the two trials currently being conducted through the ‘Apprenticeship training — alternative delivery pilots’ program, funded by the Australian Government, have further focused attention on the potential for higher apprenticeship models.

Through a national forum of industry reference committee chairs and service skills organisations, and interviews with a variety of stakeholders, this research explores how higher apprenticeships might be conceptualised in different industries and education sectors, the extent of their role and demand, possible structures of higher apprenticeships and the potential challenges to their broader use.

A spectrum of perspectives about higher apprenticeships was uncovered through the research, ranging from those who hold a traditional view of how apprenticeships should continue to be implemented, to those who have a broader perspective on how the model could be modified and expanded.

Key messages:

  • There is some stakeholder interest in various models of higher apprenticeships. However, the concept is complicated, given that higher apprenticeships potentially span both the VET and higher education sectors and are therefore subject to different educational, funding and regulatory arrangements. These complexities make it difficult for some stakeholders to hypothesise how higher apprenticeships would operate in their industry.
  • Given the divergent views of stakeholders, it is unlikely that a ‘standard’ higher apprenticeship model can be developed and successfully implemented. A more likely scenario is the development of a variety of higher apprenticeships and apprenticeship-like models of learning within the constraints of the current system.
  • Whether a higher apprenticeship is undertaken through contract of training or not, the key determinants of a successful model will be one that it is fit for purpose for the enterprise and has a demonstrable benefit for employers and their employees.
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