This article looks more closely at the experiences of apprentices in traditional trade areas. A recent paper from NCVER found that there were high levels of satisfaction with the off-the-job training, whether they complete their apprenticeship or not, but the employer-based component can be more problematic.

The NCVER report:  ‘Traditional trade apprenticeships: experiences and outcomes’ co-authored Josie Misko, Zhaoyi Gu and Michelle Circelli, builds on another article in the last issue and looks at the experiences of those in traditional trade apprenticeships in building; electrotechnology and telecommunications; engineering; food; the motor mechanic, repairer and vehicle builder trades; precision trades; skilled animal and horticultural workers; and other traditional trades such as hairdressers, cabinet-makers, printers etc. It focuses “primarily on the findings from the 2019 Apprentice and Trainee Experience and Destination survey, with data from the 2010 survey also included, where relevant, to examine any changes over time.”

As we reported last time there are good employment outcomes for completing apprentices, but as was also pointed out in that article, apprentices most often “cite employment-related reasons for leaving their apprenticeship, highlighting how critical the role of the employer is in supporting apprentice completion.” That accounted for about 74% of the main reasons cited for leaving. But looking at the tables related to not completing (table 5) or changing employers after training (table 6) is interesting too!

What else did Misko and her colleagues find?

“Over 30% of completers and non-completers had undertaken some training before beginning their traditional trade apprenticeship.” Misko and her colleagues point out that in at least 85% of cases the course was relevant to their apprenticeship. The source of information about their apprenticeship was most commonly family or teachers at a school or training provider.

The satisfaction data are interesting too. Overall, completers were very satisfied at 89%, with non-completers far less so (51.5%) – and especially with the employment-related aspects of their trade with the more significant areas of dissatisfaction for the non-completers are pay, then working conditions and supervision. If the non-completers have an issue with their off-job training it seems most likely to be related to the quality of their teachers or instructors and their perceptions of the fairness of assessment.

The employment-related benefits were certainly acknowledged by completers and non-completers alike, and:

“When asked if they had enrolled in further study after completing or leaving their traditional trade apprenticeship, around a fifth of completers and a third of non-completers reported that they had done so.”

Importantly, those who participated in focus groups spoke of more personal benefits their apprenticeship gave them, “such as increasing self-esteem and confidence as a result of having gained new knowledge and skills, and then successfully applying that knowledge and skills. The social aspects of the workplace were also considered a benefit by many of the focus group participants.”

Nevertheless, the bullying aspects, noted in our previous article, are worrying – and particularly so for females (and if you want to look more at research on women in male-dominated traditional trades you can access some relatively recent work in a 2018 VDC News item here).

Just reminding readers of other related work you might like to look at. This includes the first part of this series of work investigated “the extent to which the traditional approach to trade apprenticeships still has merit, or if it requires adjustments to make it more relevant to current needs”. You can access that work here. The second part, entitled ‘Traditional trade apprenticeships: learnings form the field’ is worth a look too.