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ERIC Number: ED529636
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 35
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 47
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-9219-5571-6
Evolution of Apprenticeships and Traineeships in Australia: An Unfinished History. Occasional Paper
Knight, Brian
National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER)
This paper traces the evolution of Australia's apprenticeship and traineeship system since permanent European settlement in 1788. The system was imported from Great Britain; it has evolved and diverged in some areas but retains many of the features of the British model. Most major changes have occurred in the last 25 years. The apprenticeship model--a combination of paid employment, on-the-job and institutional training--has always had particular appeal for meeting intergenerational skills transfer: it provides employers with a source of low-cost labour, the apprentice with paid employment, and an opportunity for government to subsidise employment for those needing help to establish themselves in the labour market. Indeed, the community, employees, unions, employers and government have come to regard apprenticeships as the system for training in the trades and have tolerated few alterations to the system, beyond those resulting from shifts in the occupational and industry mix in the Australian economy and changes in secondary schooling arrangements. The first important reform to apprenticeships occurred in 1985 with the introduction of traineeships, which extended the model to a much wider range of occupations, generally at lower qualification levels. The second was in the mid-1990s when the Australian Government began paying incentives on a large scale to employers to help offset the costs of apprenticeships and traineeships and to encourage more commencements. This had a spectacular impact on traineeship numbers but much less effect on trades apprenticeships. Other significant changes were introduced in 1998; these allowed school students, existing workers and part-time workers to undertake apprenticeships and traineeships. In short, since 1985 the system has moved from one dominated by young males undertaking apprenticeships in the trades to one that provides apprenticeships and traineeships to people of all ages and both sexes, and in a much wider range of occupations. Key messages from this paper include: (1) The apprentice and trainee system needs to address some major issues. Much of the training is at low qualification levels with little or no economic return. And it can be argued that it is neglecting the general education needs of young people; (2) The system needs greater capacity to adapt and respond quickly to changing labour market demands. Australia might look to the experience of countries that use an institutional training model for trade training, which may be much easier to ramp up quickly; and (3) By any standards the cost of Australia's current system places a hefty burden on the public purse, estimated at $2.9 billion in 2008-09. Recorded occupation of a sample of skilled convicts transported to Australia, 1788-1868 is appended. (Contains 4 tables, 2 figures and 1 footnote.)
National Centre for Vocational Education Research Ltd. P.O. Box 8288, Stational Arcade, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia. Tel: +61-8-230-8400; Fax: +61-8-212-3436; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Adult Education; Elementary Secondary Education; Postsecondary Education; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: National Centre for Vocational Education Research
Identifiers - Location: Australia; United Kingdom (Great Britain)