Apprenticeships are the one component of the VET system that the public really understand. Maybe because of this they receive a lot of policy attention. There have been two recent announcements by the Commonwealth. Real skills for real careers has been launched, focused not only on the value of apprenticeships but also other vocational training as well. Another called for tenders for an apprentice mentoring program in September 2017.

This is not the whole story. Others have been looking at what the apprenticeships of the future might look like.

What do these two initiatives aim to do?

Promoting the value of VET and apprenticeships

Real Skills for real careers is focused both on promoting the range of rewarding careers available through VET training and VET as a real alternative to university study. These include a focus on apprenticeships. A refreshed My skills website promotes the value of VET and provides YouTube clips of success stories. The website has entry points for different interest groups: career starters, those advancing or changing career and, importantly, parents and careers advisors.

Provide intensive mentoring support for apprentices in their early training

The statistics show that apprentices are most vulnerable in the early years of their training. This is when they are most likely to quit.

Mentors, whether within their employer or outside, play a very important role in supporting the transition to work in their chosen trade. Having someone to help guide the apprentice in this critical early stage is very important.

Thirty three contracts to provide these services have now been let to 24 organisations. Details of successful applicants can be found here.

What does the future hold for apprenticeships?

Megan Lilly of the Australian industry Group (AiG) has looked at what required strengthen the value and commitment to a quality apprenticeship system. She suggested that:

‘Building the supply of candidates and participants is essential and will involve reconsidering pathways into apprenticeships, as well as the apprenticeship models within the system itself. The qualifications undertaken will need to evolve to include new skills and different jobs.

In 2016 a forum involving over 60 stakeholders was held to stimulate thinking on the future of apprenticeships and what could help keep them relevant. The forum felt that the fundamentals of the apprenticeship concept were sound, but that the ‘system architecture’ which sits around the model could do with a serious rethink. This includes both regulation and funding. Forum participants believed that smaller enterprises should be engaged more holistically in the system, suggesting that support services for both apprentices and their employers could be better structured and utilized. New thinking was also needed about how to reach and inform key influencers of potential apprentices, including parents, career professionals and classroom teachers.

Finally, they felt there was a real opportunity to raise the status of apprenticeships. This included extending the apprenticeship concept to higher level qualifications.

So what about higher apprenticeships?

The back of mind question is whether even traditional trades are still at Certificate III level in the AQF. Victoria University did some work on the higher apprenticeship concept for the Victorian Department of Education and Training in 2012, but Price Waterhouse Coopers has carried concept into reality in a pilot program. NCVER has a report on the concept due mid this year. This is one to look out for!