Australia’s apprenticeship system has fallen out of favour and needs urgent action to restore it as a pillar of skills development for young people.
In its submission to the federal government’s Expert Review of Vocational Education and Training (VET), the National Apprentice Employment Network (NAEN) has called for measures to invigorate apprenticeships to cater to a dynamic 21st century workplace.
The National Executive Officer of NAEN Dianne Dayhew said apprenticeships and traineeships were once the bedrock of skills development, but had declined in recent years.
“Unfortunately, an apprenticeship or traineeship pathway is now burdened by increased stigma and uncertainty for employers, prospective apprentices and trainees, and their parents.
“We are concerned at the long-term decline of apprentices and trainees commencing training and completing full qualifications, despite there being thousands of job vacancies open to apprentices and trainees in many parts of Australia.
“In the group training network alone, there are an estimated 5000 apprenticeship or traineeship vacancies that could be promptly filled with the right candidates,” Ms Dayhew said.
The group training network employs some 25,000 apprentices and trainees nationally. Group training organisations (GTOs) are responsible for recruiting and placing apprentices and trainees with host businesses, where they undertake on-the-job and formal training until completion.
In its submission to the review, NAEN calls for adequate funding of apprenticeships, better utilisation of the group training network, flexibility in training and qualifications to meet modern industry needs, and a focus on employment outcomes from VET.
NAEN has grave concerns about the funding crisis facing the national VET system, with member GTOs saying this is at the core of many problems experienced by both users and deliverers of VET.
“Overall, the VET system has limped from one policy experiment to another over the last decade,” the submission says.
“It has been beset by policy and program changes that have created an atmosphere of confusion and uncertainty – the last thing that businesses need when taking on the normal risks typically associated with an apprenticeship,” it says.
“NAEN strongly supports a comprehensive review of the VET system so that stability and confidence return to this most important pillar of national skills development, and also to prepare the Australian workforce for the future.”
The submission also addresses the status of VET and the skewing of post-school pathways toward university at the expense of vocational skills.
“Perversely, there are thousands of graduates being churned out by universities. This glaring policy anomaly is putting Australia’s future workforce at a significant disadvantage, globally, while the skills crisis has exposed an over-reliance on imported labour.”
NAEN believes that change is needed in the way that apprenticeships are viewed, supported and promoted to those aspiring to a skilled career.
“This review is a chance to create a framework for a VET system that puts apprenticeships on a renewed trajectory – one that rekindles interest and sets a climate to put vocational skilling at the forefront of the national policy agenda,” Ms Dayhew said.
The VET review was announced by the government last November. It is being conducted by Steven Joyce, the former New Zealand Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, and will report in March.
See NAEN’s Submission to the Expert Review of Australia’s VET System
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