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Among those enrolled in apprenticeships and traineeships, Indigenous students are more likely to be participating in courses of study leading to lower qualifications, according to this report.


What we know

  • Indigenous Australians, particularly females, are more likely than the rest of the population to participate in apprenticeships and traineeships, mostly due to the relatively younger demographic structure of the Indigenous population (as apprenticeships are typically undertaken during youth).
  • Among those enrolled in apprenticeships and traineeships, Indigenous students are more likely to be participating in courses of study leading to lower qualifications (Certificate I and II).
  • For both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, the key determinant of field of study is gender: males are much more likely to be participating in apprenticeships and traineeships that will result in them becoming tradespersons or related workers, and females are more likely to be working towards an occupation as an Intermediate Clerical, Sales and Service Worker.
  • Indigenous Australians are less likely to be employed across all age groups.
  • Apprenticeships are commonly seen as a useful tool for ‘Closing the Gap’.
  • Not all apprentices and trainees are employed, but they have a much higher rate of employment compared with other students (52.1% of Indigenous apprentices are employed, compared with 31.6% of other Indigenous students).
  • When surveyed, students generally report the benefits of having an apprenticeship as being to ‘advance my skills more generally’ and having the ‘satisfaction of achievement’. However, in addition to these universal benefits, Indigenous Australians are also much more likely to report being ‘seen as a role model for others in the community’.

What works

  • Evidence from overseas studies suggests that participation in traineeships and apprenticeships can have a positive effect on employment outcomes and earnings.
  • A statistical analysis of the Skilling Queenslanders for Work (SQW) program found that almost 15% of those who found employment through the SQW programs would not have otherwise been able to find employment.
  • Pre-apprenticeship training nearly doubles the chance of enrolment in an apprenticeship from a base of about 10% of potential students. Pre-apprenticeship training can also be associated with higher job satisfaction, although the evidence is inconclusive.
  • Reviews of some Indigenous-specific training and employment programs show a positive effect on employment and education and relatively high levels of job satisfaction for participants.
  • It appears that the provision of mentors reduces cancellation rates for Indigenous apprentices.

What doesn't work

  • An analysis of the Australian Apprenticeship Incentive Scheme found that incentives increase the number of people commencing an apprenticeship, but the scheme has no effect on retention.
  • Apprenticeships have very little effect on employment outcomes (increased hours or wages) for those who were employed before training.

What we don't know

  • There is a need for more robust data on the diverse effects of apprenticeships in an Australian, and particularly an Indigenous Australian, context. Existing studies suffer from self-selection bias. Furthermore, often only participants in apprenticeships are included in the studies, so it is possible that the observed outcome is linked to an unobserved characteristic shared by those who enrol (for example, above-average levels of motivation) that is not uniform across the population.
  • Although there are many effective Indigenous-specific trainee programs in industries where Indigenous engagement is already relatively high (for example, mining and land management), there is no analysis on whether or not programs in these industries are more effective than other programs (for example, programs by the National Australia Bank as part of their Reconciliation Action Plan).
  • One missing piece of evidence on effective apprenticeships and traineeships is the extent to which Indigenous apprentices and trainees are discriminated against or treated unfairly in different industries, regions and employer types.



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