Apprenticeships and traineeships, in one form or another, are used the world over to train new entrants to the workforce in skilled jobs. The key features of learning by doing, underpinned by formal theory training, whilst in paid employment are widely supported and often expanded into non-traditional industries and jobs.
But there are problems with the apprenticeship model. Opportunities for vacancies are linked to the outlook for each business, and the uncertainty generated by the pandemic has impacted heavily on this. If vacancies remain low for the coming months or years, this will not only impact on future skills shortages but will severely limit career possibilities for school leavers and other young people.
For many years, employers have lamented the paucity of good candidates for apprenticeship vacancies. The perception is that young people aspire to universities for the pathway to professional careers they offer. Parents and careers teachers in schools favour these pathways, whether it be for prestige or future earnings; because apprenticeship pathways are poorly understood; or because university enrolment numbers are an indicator of a school’s success.
If apprenticeships are truly valued, how can they be made more attractive to young people? How can more companies be encouraged to offer opportunities, especially during a recession? And if apprenticeships will not meet Australia’s skills needs, how else can they be met? This discussion paper examines some options for reform.