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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2000  
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Contents >> Education >> Education and Work: Developments in contracted training: apprentices and trainees

Education and Work: Developments in contracted training: apprentices and trainees

The number of apprentices reached a peak of 175,500 in 1989, followed by a marked decline to 1993 and a further increase through the latter half of the 1990s. Along with this more recent increase has been the rapid emergence of traineeships.

Trades and apprenticeships
Traditionally, the term ‘apprenticeship’ not only described a system of training, but also was generally applied to specific types of occupations commonly known as ‘trades’. A 1954 report,1 listed all the ‘apprenticeship trades’ which it found. The industry groups mentioned included (among others): blacksmiths, electrical mechanics, motor mechanics, fitters and turners, plumbers, bricklayers, printers, dressmakers, bakers and hairdressers; as well as less common trades such as window frame fitters, brush makers and sausage casing makers. While some of these trades no longer exist, most are still included in the Australian Standard Classification of Occupations (ASCO, 2nd Edition) under the broad level group ‘Tradespersons and related workers’. The link between trades and apprentices continues today, with most (85%) people who stated that they were apprentices in 1999, apprenticed in the trades (i.e. Tradespersons and related workers).2

Definitions

Apprenticeships - a system of employment and training involving a contract between an apprentice and an employer. It is governed by legislative, industrial and administrative machinery to ensure that contract conditions are observed by both parties. It involves a combination of work and study which usually includes both on-the-job and off-the-job technical training.

Traineeships - a system of employment and training that involves an agreement between the employer and trainee to provide training and employment for a specified period of time.

New Apprenticeships - were introduced in 1998 and include both apprenticeships and traineeships. They involve a formal agreement known as either a Training Agreement or a Contract of Training. The Agreement outlines the training, support and supervision an employer will provide. They offer more flexible arrangements including part-time school-based contracts.

Data sources
Between 1969 and 1994, a count of the number of apprentices recognised in each State and Territory in June each year was provided for the Commonwealth-State Training Advisory Committee (COSTAC). The collators of this data have changed over time and included various Commonwealth departments and the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

Since 1995, the NCVER has compiled a count of all persons, both apprentices and trainees, undertaking employment-based training under a contract of training. The data is compiled every quarter, from administrative data collected by each State and Territory Training Authority under the Australian Vocational Education and Training Management Statistical (AVETMIS) Standard. Each quarter, the data is revised to incorporate data missed due to time lags in the reporting of data to the training authorities. However, at the same time as releasing preliminary reported data the NCVER produces estimates of expected final numbers which are referred to as estimates.

This review uses both estimated and preliminary reported data prepared by the NCVER. The latter has been used as the estimated data are not produced for detailed disaggregations. In 1999, the year for which both preliminary reported and estimated data are given, the preliminary count of all apprentices and trainees represented 91% of that given in the estimated data.

It is not possible to separately identify apprentices and trainees in NCVER data. Data from this collection, as at June of each year, is hereafter called the NCVER collection.

Since 1983 the ABS Transition from Education to Work Survey (hereafter called the ABS survey), has provided estimates of the number of people who stated that they were apprentices in training in May each year. While the collection of this data item has undergone few changes since that time, policy changes and changes to the way entry level training has been provided throughout Australia have given rise to a concern that what respondents mean when they state that they are an apprentice may have changed.

From 1983 until 1994, the administrative data and the ABS survey collections were roughly comparable.

A small break in the time series for the ABS survey data occurred in May 1998 when information on apprenticeship was collected from all people aged 15-64 years rather than only those aged 15-34 years. This change has not yet made any substantial difference to the overall number of apprentices, as most apprentices reported are aged under 25 years (92% in 1999). Over time, more apprentices may be reported in the older age groups.

From 2000, the ABS survey will also attempt to collect and publish trainee data. It will continue to provide a long time series of data on apprentices but will also allow the apprentice and trainee counts to be combined.

Available information shows that the number of apprentices in Australia generally increased throughout the 1970s and 1980s, which according to ABS data reached a peak of 175,500 in 1989. Their numbers fell sharply during the early 1990s, down to 111,200 in 1993, rising again to about 132,200 in 1999. In 1999, apprentices represented a relatively small number of students when compared with the 1.5 million aged 15-24 engaged in all forms of post-compulsory education (see Australian Social Trends 2000, Beyond compulsory schooling). However, the emerging importance of traineeships as another form of entry-level training during the latter half of the 1990s has greatly increased the numbers of people involved in contracted training. Taken together, there were 256,500 apprentices and trainees in Australia in 1999.

Apprenticeships have existed in Australia since the early part of the 19th century. Since that time they have evolved and, in recent decades in particular, the nature of apprenticeships has changed substantially in terms of the forms they take, the length of the indenture period and the occupational fields covered. In 1985, a traineeship system was introduced to broaden entry-level training opportunities. More recently, from 1998 both apprentices and trainees have been covered under the umbrella of New Apprenticeships.

In addition to these structural changes, there have also been variations to the methods of collecting data on apprentices, both between the States and Territories, and over time. Consequently, it is difficult to get a precise statistical picture over time of either apprenticeships or traineeships

APPRENTICES AND TRAINEES, 1968-1999

APPRENTICES AND TRAINEES, 1968-1999 - GRAPH


(a) Includes apprentices only.
(b) Includes apprentices and trainees from 1995. See box on page 103 for more information.

Source: Transition from Education to Work, Australia (cat. no. 4227.0); Australian Committee on Vocational Education and Training Statistics (ACVETS), Apprenticeship Statistics, 1984-85 to 1993-94; unpublished estimates, NCVER apprenticeships and traineeships collections, June 1999.


The history of apprenticeships
The apprenticeship system was introduced into Australia in the early part of the 19th century in response to demand for trades skills in the expanding colonies. The system, including its legislation, reflected the British system of the time. At the time of Federation, the legislative powers relating to apprenticeships remained with the individual States.3

While there were some variations between the States at the beginning of the 20th century, apprenticeships were usually for a maximum period of seven years, starting at age 14. At the age of 21 (or sooner if married) apprentices would be accepted as journeymen (these were fully qualified tradespeople who were employees rather than independent).3

After World War I, the apprenticeship period was lowered to five years for most trades (four years was more common for girls).4 During the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, there were not always enough apprentices to fulfil demand, and various Commonwealth and State inquiries were set up to find ways to encourage young people into trade careers.1

However, it was not until changes occurred to the apprenticeship system in the late 1960s that the supply of young people wanting to become apprentices increased. Those changes included reducing the period of apprenticeship to four years in most cases; improving the wages and conditions of apprentices; and introducing compulsory technical training during work hours. However, the changes also had the effect of reducing the number of apprenticeships offered, as the conditions were then less attractive to employers. By 1968, there were 102,354 registered apprentices.3

Throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s there have been a number of Commonwealth and State Government incentives to encourage employers to provide more apprenticeships and other entry-level training opportunities for young people.3

MEASURES OF APPRENTICES AND TRAINEES, 1995-1999

Trade occupations(a)
All fields


Apprentices
(ABS survey data)
Apparent no. of
trainees(b)
Apprentices and trainees
(NCVER data)
Apprentices
(ABS survey data)
Apparent no. of
trainees(b)
Apprentices and trainees
(NCVER data)
Year
‘000
‘000
‘000
‘000
‘000
‘000

1995
99.8
20.4
120.2
114.6
21.4
136.0
1996
108.1
16.6
124.7
126.3
30.4
156.7
1997
105.7
19.3
125.0
121.1
51.2
172.3
1998
104.1
20.4
124.5
124.5
69.7
194.2
1999
112.7
18.0
130.7
132.2
124.3
256.5

(a) Trade occupations are those in the Australian Standard Classification of Occupations 2nd edition broad classification ‘Trades and related workers’.
(b) Obtained by taking the difference between the estimates available from the two sources of data. These should be treated with caution as they are not the actual numbers, which are not known.

Source: Transition from Education to Work, Australia, May 1999 (cat. no. 6227.0); unpublished estimates, NCVER apprenticeships and traineeships collections, June 1999.


The introduction of traineeships

The Australian Traineeship System was introduced Australia-wide in 1985. It aimed to provide a combination of on-the-job and off-the-job training for young people entering many non-trade occupations such as clerical, sales or services work. The traineeship system was designed to complement the apprenticeship system and other post- secondary education. As with apprenticeships, the States and Territories have the responsibility for approving, certifying and monitoring traineeships.3

Traineeships generally last for a shorter period than apprenticeships (usually around 12 months) and, when first introduced, did not necessarily involve the strict contract that apprenticeships did. Originally traineeships were offered only to people up to the age of 19 years. People who had left school without completing Year 12 were given preference.3 In later years the age limit was dropped.

The New Apprenticeships Scheme
In 1998, the Federal Government introduced the New Apprenticeships Scheme. This scheme included both traineeships and apprenticeships, and was introduced to make the systems more flexible for both students and employers. The scheme increased flexibility by providing: greater choice in the duration of training; different mixes of experiential and formal learning; and a choice of training provider for the off-the-job component. The introduction of new apprenticeships has abolished many of the formal distinctions between apprenticeships and traineeships. Indeed, a traditional apprenticeship is not necessarily the only means of becoming a tradesperson, and it is also possible to obtain an apprenticeship in a non-trade field.

As a result of all these changes, apprenticeships and traineeships have become difficult to identify and measure separately. However, the need to distinguish between these two groups is relevant when information about the potential number of qualified tradespersons is required or when numbers of trainees are required.

Detailing recent trends
There are two main sources of data which provide information about the number and characteristics of apprentices and trainees in Australia. These are: the ABS Transition from Education to Work survey, a population survey which includes information about people who state that they are doing an apprenticeship; and the NCVER collection, which counts the number of people undertaking employment-based training through contracts of training (commonly known as trainees and apprentices).

Although the data are not directly comparable (see box on page 103), crude estimates of the numbers of trainees, as opposed to the numbers of apprentices, can be approximated by taking the difference between the figures from the respective sources. The resultant data highlights the rapid growth of traineeships that occurred in the mid to late 1990s, and that this growth has occurred in non-trade related occupations.

Between 1995 and 1999 the ABS Survey showed that the number of apprentices increased from 114,600 to 132,200 people (that is, by 17,600 people). Over this same period the combined number of apprentices and trainees, as seen from the NCVER collection, increased from 136,000 to 256,500. The difference between the two collections suggests that the number of people undertaking traineeships increased by 102,900 (from 21,400 to 124,300) between 1995 and 1999.

Changes within the trade-related occupations, both with respect to the numbers of apprentices and trainees (the latter being less common within trade-related occupations) have not been as marked. Between 1995 and 1999 the ABS survey data showed that the number of apprentices in trade-related occupations increased from 99,800 to 112,700. On the other hand, the number of trainees, as estimated, was slightly lower in 1999 (18,000) than it was in 1995 (20,400).

Given the large overall increase in traineeships over this period, it is clear that the increase in traineeships occurred in fields other than in the trade-related occupations.

AGE AND SEX DISTRIBUTION OF APPRENTICES AND TRAINEES AGED 15-64 YEARS, 1999

Apprentices (ABS survey data)(a)
Apprentices and trainees (NCVER data)(b)


Field of Occupation
15-19 years
20-24 years
Total(c)
Proportion
male
15-19 years
20-24 years
Total(c,d)
Proportion
male
‘000
‘000
‘000
%
‘000
‘000
‘000
%

Trades and related workers
Engineering
13.7
7.1
23.7
97.2
9.1
8.4
19.7
98.5
Automotive
11.7
5.3
18.0
100.0
10.1
9.1
22.0
97.8
Electrical and Electronics
5.6
6.4
12.5
100.0
7.2
8.0
17.2
98.2
Construction
14.2
11.9
28.3
99.7
13.3
10.3
25.6
98.9
Structural Construction
9.3
7.5
18.4
99.5
9.0
6.6
16.7
99.3
Plumbing
*4.1
*3.6
8.2
100.0
2.9
2.4
5.9
99.5
Food
7.1
*3.5
10.6
78.8
7.7
8.2
19.5
76.9
Skilled Agricultural and Horticultural
*1.8
*1.2
*3.2
*91.7
1.5
1.7
3.7
89.4
Other Trade and related work
9.9
5.9
16.5
55.6
8.9
7.0
17.7
45.7
Wood
*3.4
*1.3
*4.8
*100.0
2.3
1.6
4.1
97.3
Hairdressing
*5.1
*3.1
8.9
*19.9
5.4
3.5
9.6
10.2
Total trades and related workers
64.0
41.2
112.7
90.6
57.8
52.6
125.4
87.3
Other fields
9.5
6.2
19.5
69.0
28.9
24.2
108.8
47.0
Total
73.5
47.5
132.2
87.4
86.7
76.8
234.2
68.6

(a) Refers to May 1999.
(b) Preliminary data for June 1999. Due to lags in the reporting of some of the data, the figures are understated (see Data sources definition box).
(c) Includes those aged 25 years and over.
(d) Includes those who did not state their age.

Source: Transition from Education to Work, Australia, May 1999 (cat. no. 6227.0); unpublished data, 1999 Transition from Education to Work Survey;
unpublished preliminary reported data, NCVER apprenticeships and traineeships collections, June 1999.

Field of occupation
In 1999, the ABS survey found that the most common trades for apprenticeships were the construction and engineering trades (28,300 and 23,700 respectively).

Other more common choices included the automotive and food trades (18,000 and 10,600 apprentices respectively). A similar distribution of numbers, even though they are based on preliminary reported data (see box on page 103 for explanation) can be seen from the available NCVER data which explicitly includes trainees within the counts.

Participation by age
Traditionally, apprenticeships were exclusively for training young school leavers to take up a trade for life.6 However, with the need for a more flexible workforce and for an array of retraining opportunities throughout people’s lives, most apprenticeships are now available to people of all ages
.
Nevertheless, young people still dominate apprentice numbers. In 1999, the ABS survey found that 56% of apprentices were aged 15-19 years and a further 36% were aged 20-24 years. However, the age distribution varied between trades. For example, electrical and electronics trade apprentices and construction apprentices were less likely to be aged 15-19 years (45% and 50% respectively) than food and automotive apprentices (67% and 65%, respectively).

The NCVER collection found consistently higher proportions of people in the older age groups learning a trade than did the ABS survey. The difference suggests that older people are more likely to obtain trade training through traineeships than through apprenticeships, possibly because they prefer the shorter contracts of training offered for traineeships.

Male/female differences
Occupations associated with the trades have been, and continue to be, some of the most sex-segregated in Australia. With the exception of hairdressing (which has always been predominantly female), most trades have been male dominated. Since the early 1980s strategies and programs have been put in place to reduce this dominance by encouraging females into trades such as plumbing, bricklaying and printing.5

In 1999, male apprentices still greatly outnumbered female apprentices: by almost seven to one, from the ABS survey data. The only trade besides hairdressing with a sizeable number of women apprentices was the food trade (21% were female, compared with less than 10% in most other trades). The NCVER collection found similar sex ratios in the trade fields to the ABS survey, suggesting that trainees in these fields have a similar gender profile as apprentices in these fields. However, as the numbers of trainees in these fields are relatively small, this finding is inconclusive.

In fields other than the trades, where traineeships are much more common, the NCVER collection shows a high proportion of female participants (51%). Even among apprentices in fields other than the trades, as seen from the ABS data, the proportions of female participants was relatively high (31% compared to 9% in the trade-related occupations taken as a whole).

Endnotes

1 Commonwealth-State Apprenticeship Inquiry 1954, Report of the Committee, March 1954, W.M. Houston, Government Printer, Melbourne.

2 Australian Bureau of Statistics 1999, Transition from Education to Work, May 1999, cat. no. 6227.0, ABS, Canberra.

3 Department of Employment, Education and Training 1992, Essential Features of Australia’s Training Systems, produced for VEETAC, AGPS, Canberra.

4 Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics 1923, Official Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia, No. 16, Albert J. Mullett, Government printer, Melbourne.

5 Department of Employment, Education and Training 1987, Report of the Working Group on Women in Apprenticeship, AGPS, Canberra.

6 Department of Labour and National Service August 1967, Essential Features of Australian Apprenticeship Systems, prepared by the Department of Labour and National Service for the Australian Apprenticeship Advisory Committee, DLNS, Melbourne.



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