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A companion to Traditional trade apprenticeships: training activity, employer incentives and international practice by Josie Misko, this report collates qualitative material from in-depth interviews and focus groups with employers, trainers, apprentices and relevant government officials describing what is effective, what is not, and what needs improvement in apprenticeship training.

Our research finds that the current combination of off- and on-the-job training is, on the whole, working effectively and should continue to play a key role in apprenticeship training for the traditional trades. Both forms of training are required if apprentices are to develop the technical skills, underpinning knowledge, attributes and behaviours required for their trades. Nevertheless, our research identified a number of challenges in ensuring that this combination continues to operate well. Recommendations for improvement were offered, of which many were similar or the same, while other issues were less common, although all aimed at ensuring that the system works effectively and efficiently for all involved.

Key messages:

  • There was strong support among employers, training providers, apprentices and apprenticeship regulators for maintaining the current elements of apprenticeship training for the traditional trades, these include a formal training contract and the combination of on- and off-the-job training. Where suggestions for improvement were made, they were more concerned with making slight adjustments to the current approaches rather than fundamental shifts.
  • Apprentices sometimes felt challenged by the expectations of the workplace, managing their release for off-the-job training at appropriate times, understanding the complex theory components of their courses, and sustaining interpersonal interactions with superiors and co-workers.
  • The appropriate scheduling of off-the-job training (especially block training), in consultation with employers, has the potential to ensure that employers can both fulfil their training contract obligations to release apprentices for training and keep apprentices engaged in productive work during busy periods. In terms of outdoor trades, the ability of the training provider to be flexible when scheduling off-the-job training at times when the weather is unsuitable is considered critical.
  • In view of the increasing specialisations in some industries, it was recognised that it is becoming more difficult to align the learning the apprentice is undertaking off the job with tasks being done on the job. Where apprentices are exposed to substantial specialisation in the workplace, there is a view among some employers that training providers should focus on the skills not regularly practised in the workplace to allow the apprentice to spend more time learning the skills of the broader trade.
  • Stakeholders felt that modernising training package content could assist with the removal of the units of competency that deal with the equipment, tools and technology no longer in use in the workplace.
  • Collaborations between training providers and employers with access to modern technology were also considered to be useful in keeping apprentices up-to-date with current developments.
  • Although an issue affecting only a few employers, national companies commented that, due to the differing training contract requirements applying in each jurisdiction, it was difficult to move their apprentices around the country.
  • Training providers indicated that compliance with VET regulatory frameworks and standards at national and state and territory levels continues to place high administrative burdens on trainers and their managers, largely because they saw this compliance as additional to their core teaching and training responsibilities.
  • Engaging the apprentice in concentrated periods of up-front training, followed by periods of workplace training, is an option suggested by some, although whether this should occur as part of the apprenticeship itself or prior to the apprenticeship commencing was not specified. Either way, there are likely to be implications for competency-based wage progression.
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