Working, learning: better supporting Victorian apprentices on the job
Apprenticeships remain a key part of the skills development system that is providing Victoria with the skilled workforce required to meet current and emerging industry needs. Worryingly the number of Victorian apprentices and trainees in training has experienced a significant decline over the last decade, however action has been taken to reverse this trend and apprentice numbers are now gradually growing again.
Off the job training requires first class vocational education and training courses and facilities, including Victoria’s TAFE network, to be delivering high quality learning. On the job training requires the support and commitment of both employers and apprentices to practically apply skills learned in a real-world work environment. This includes a commitment by employers to passing on their skills to apprentices, and creating a workplace environment where that knowledge transfer can safely and productively occur.
While the focus of recent policy making in Victoria has examined the overall adequacy of our vocational education and training system – including the significant 2021 Review of Victoria’s Future Skills Needs – the particular needs of apprentices can often be overshadowed in larger debates about the training system, its future policy direction, the interests of providers and the needs of industry.
- Victorian apprenticeship completion rates are below the national average. Fewer than 20,000 Victorian apprentices completed their training in each of the years just prior to the pandemic.
- Reported incidence of workplace issues, including bullying and harassment, and unpaid wages, are increasing.
- There is a complex web of organisations who provide different advice and support to apprentices, and it is often confusing who does what and where to go for help with employment related issues.
- Policy makers and regulators should increase the voice of Victorian apprentices in their deliberations to ensure issues relevant to apprentices are considered and addressed.
- Employers should be properly held accountable for the bad on-the-job experiences of their apprentice, and have approvals revoked if they breach safety laws.
- Regulatory powers in relation to apprentices in Victoria should be moved from the VRQA to another statutory body or agency, along with field visits, to reduce duplication, increase effectiveness and prevent exploitation and poor workplace experience of apprentices.