Fact sheet

Fact Check: Richard Marles says there are 70,000 fewer apprentices and trainees than there were in 2013. Is that correct?

Skilled workforce Apprenticeships Vocational education and training Australia

Deputy Labor leader, Richard Marles, has accused the Coalition of overseeing a national skills crisis due to falling numbers of apprentices and trainees, rejecting a claim by Prime Minister Scott Morrison that the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic had avoided a "lost generation of skills".

"We haven't lost a generation, we've lost nearly a decade," he tweeted as Mr Morrison delivered a televised speech.

"There are 70,000 fewer apprentices and trainees today then there was in 2013," Mr Marles wrote.

However, while the combined number of apprentices and trainees has fallen by roughly 70,000 under the Coalition, that total masks two very different stories.

The number of trainees has fallen by just under 73,000 since the Coalition was elected. Meanwhile, the number of trade apprentices has risen by 1,500.

Importantly, the fall in trainees began before the Coalition came to power.

This followed changes introduced in 2012 by the then Labor government to address well documented and systemic problems relating to employer training subsidies.

The fall in traineeships was, in fact, larger under one year of Labor than under the first seven years of Coalition government.

Experts consulted by Fact Check also said the trainee and apprentice figures were influenced by a range of complex factors, including the uncapping of university places, the end of the mining boom and the long-term decline of manufacturing.

But both traineeships and apprenticeships are reliant on government subsidies, and the latest available data includes a significant jump in either category following the introduction of temporary COVID-19 measures.

This reversed many of the losses sustained during the Coalition's first seven years.

Verdict: Mr Marles's claim is spin.

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