Apprenticeships in Australia
Apprenticeships are a great way to learn a trade whilst getting paid to do so. Apprentices are able develop a skill set that will help them to build a career in a specific industry they are interested in. Australia has a great apprenticeship program that was created to make it easier to grow and gain experience in various trades and fields. There are many different types of apprenticeships to choose from, and lots of variables in age, wages, certificates available and financial support can make it difficult to sift through all the information, the aim of this guide is to piece together as much information about apprenticeships in general. Make sure to visit the various relevant resources in the different sections, which some times can include detailed information on specific topics.
Apprenticeships vs. Traineeships
Apprenticeships and traineeships are quite similar in many ways, but they usually differ in that apprenticeships are often longer, and can some times last 3-4 years on average. Traineeships are shorter and usually last around 12 months. Another difference is the types of jobs offered. Apprenticeships are usually found in trade-related industries like carpentry and electrical engineering and the like. You can find traineeships in the trade industries also, but are also common for industries like business, information technology and similar industries. Another important difference to keep in mind is the fact that in a traineeship, the trainee or employer can cancel the contract at any time without the other party’s consent, whereas in an apprenticeship, a cancelled contract must be mutually agreed upon.
The Benefits of an Apprenticeship
An apprenticeship allows apprentices to learn a trade as they work, meaning they gain valuable hands-on experience as they study, as well as getting paid throughout the duration of the apprenticeship. They can be excellent pathway towards developing a career in high demand industries. The Australian government has even set up specific financial incentives for apprentices in some high demand industries, such as construction, health services, and manufacturing (among others) that help incentivise both potential apprentices and employers to undertake an apprenticeship. To see a list of in-demand industries/skills shortages click here.
Once an apprenticeship is completed, the apprentice earns a nationally recognised certificate that can help them kick start an enjoyable career in an industry they are interested in.
Mature Age Apprenticeships
Modern Australian apprenticeships can be undertaken by people from all walks of life, including older adults looking for a new career. Mature age apprenticeships, which are also some times referred to as Adult Apprenticeships, can be beneficial to both apprentices and employers alike. Click on the following link to read more about mature age apprenticeships.
If you’re undecided about what kind of apprenticeship you want to begin, it could be helpful to check out the industries identified by the Australian government as high priority or set to grow significantly in the next few years. Doing an apprenticeship in an industry like heath care, construction or technical services would be a good bet because they’re set to grow significantly in the next few years. It could also be helpful to take a look at some of the most popular apprenticeships in Australia. These include:
Being aware of emerging industries that will definitely have legs in the future can also be a valuable factor in your decision making process. Biofutures, Aerospace, and Advanced Manufacturing could also be areas to look into if you want to get into a field that should see increasing demand throughout the next decades.
How to get an Apprenticeship
The first thing an apprentice should do if they want to start an apprenticeship is contact the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network (AASN). This is a government funded network that includes over 400 offices that serve different areas in all six states across Australia. It is a lot easier to find a legitimate apprenticeship by going through the network. They help would be apprentices find an apprenticeship through a registered training organisation (RTO) and affiliated educational institutions. If the you are currently enrolled in school, you may also consider an Australian School-based Apprenticeship.
Once you’re in communication with your RTO and found a suitable apprenticeship, you should then make sure you have all the proper paperwork completed and ready to go before your first day. Some of this paperwork includes your formal training contract from the employer and a negotiated training plan that is endorsed by your RTO and your employer that lays out the specifics of your apprenticeship like training tasks, required materials and competency frameworks.
What Certificates are Available?
Apprenticeships are offered for certificates II, III, and IV, as well as diploma and advanced diploma. Job prospects after your apprenticeship will vary depending on the certificate you obtained. For example, if you're interested in a Chef apprenticeship, you will usually need a certificate III in order to get a good position after you complete your apprenticeship.
What is an Award?
Awards in Australia are legal documents that outline the minimum pay rate in different industries and positions. The national award standards are laid out on the government’s FairWork Ombudsman website, where you can find all the information about the awards in place for different industries. Most apprenticeships will be covered by an awards, which will entitle you to compensation for things like training costs and materials and time spent at school.
Although most apprenticeships will be covered by awards, it is important to note that some will not be. These are called award-free apprenticeships. Award-free apprentices will be covered under the national minimum wages, which doesn’t include a special rate for apprentices. You can find out your minimum wage by searching for the Miscellaneous Award for apprentices on the FairWork Ombudsman website.
Wages for apprentices will vary based on your age, the length of your apprenticeship, the award terms mentioned above, and the industry you are undertaking the apprenticeship in. For example, if you are over the age of 21, you may be eligible for an adult apprenticeship , which offers the benefit of a higher starting salary than a younger apprentice or trainee. Again, it's important to check the FairWork Ombudsman website to see what the wages may look like for the apprenticeship you are interested in.
There a few different types of financial support available that will help cover any costs during an apprenticeship. The Australian government offers what is called a “Trade Support Loan”, which provides up to $21,000 to help cover the costs of living and studying during an apprenticeship. You can contact the Apprenticeship Support Network to learn more about this and check your eligibility. Other financial support available at the federal level includes things like:
- Living away from home allowance
- Additional Identified Skill Shortage allowance
- Youth allowance
The Skill Shortage allowance is based on the occupations that the government has decided are of high-demand and need to grow. We’ve mentioned some of them above, and you can find the full list here. The allowance is $1,000 one year into the apprenticeship, and an additional $1,000 after the apprentice has successfully completed his/her training.
There are also incentives on the state level that will help cover costs for an apprenticeship or traineeship. Fore example New South Wales has a “Smart and Skilled” program that offers fee-fee incentives, and Victoria has a similar “Skills First” program. It can be worth looking at the incentives offered in your state as well, which your RTO can help you with.
The National Employment Standards, or NES, sets the guidelines for the rights and entitlements of workers and apprentices nation-wide. The rights of apprentices and full-time employees doesn’t really vary. The NES gives 10 minimum standards that must be met whether you are an apprentice or a full-time or part-time employee.
1. 38 hours maximum work week
2. Requests for flexible working arrangements
3. Up to 12 months unpaid leave
4. Four weeks paid annual leave
5. Up to 10 days of sick leave
6. Community service leave
7. Long Service leave
8. Leave on public holidays
9. Up to five weeks notice of termination, and up to 16 weeks redundancy pay
10. Fair work information statement must be given to new employees
Apprenticeships While Still At School
For those who are still enrolled in school, the Australian School-based Apprenticeships program will be a great way to start your apprenticeship while you are still studying. You will need to negotiate your work/study hours with your school, and you can learn more at the Australian Apprenticeships website here.
Foreigners and Apprenticeships
Although international students will not be able to enroll in an apprenticeship while studying in Australia, there are some other pathways for foreigners living in Australia who wish to get into the apprenticeship programs. Spouses or Australian citizens, permanent residents, and individuals on certain visas will be able to become an apprentices. Visas that allow for work and study are the only ones that will allow you to enroll in an apprenticeship. These visas include the Business Talent visa, Employer nomination scheme visa, the Skilled Independent visa, Skilled Nominated visa, and Temporary Skill Shortage visa. Also, if you are a New Zealand resident, you might be able to take advantage of the apprenticeship programs in Australia. For more information on this, make sure to check the resources listed further down.
Summing it Up
An apprenticeship can be a great start to a rewarding career, but it is important to do your research first so you are able to maximise your time and excel in your field. First thing’s first get in touch with the Apprenticeship Support Network, which will then get you in touch with your local RTO, and go from there.