We have always wondered whether being Group Training Organisations have been good for apprentices and trainees in terms of completion rates.

A recent NCVER report has provided the answer. And it’s YES!

The report

In a report by Lisel O’Dwyer and Patrick Korbel, entitled “Completion rates for group training organisations and direct employers: how do they compare?’, NCVER compares outcomes from ‘direct employers’: businesses that directly employ an apprentice or trainee and group training organisations (GTOs). These are organisations “whose role is to employ apprentices and trainees and place them with host businesses.” They are:

“responsible for selecting and recruiting apprentices and trainees, matching them to host businesses and taking responsibility for meeting all employer obligations, including paying wages and entitlements, arranging formal training and assessment, and providing pastoral care and support throughout the contract.”

Making comparisons between direct employers and GTOs can be difficult, and it is likely that GTOs have a harder gig. As Simon Walker, NCVER’s MD pointed out in a press release about this report: “Compared with other employers, apprentices and trainees with group training organisations are younger, more likely to be trade-based, and more likely to be new workers, all of which are factors that represent a higher risk of non-completion,”

So, how do they do comparatively? In terms of completion rates for non-trade occupations, GTOs are generally on a par with, or better than, direct employers that are large organisations. For this group GTOs perform better than small to medium size employers. When looking at trades-based occupations, large direct employers are the way to go, but for small to medium sized employers, working through a GTO shows improved completion rates. This outcome is not really surprising as GTOs can help service small to medium employers and help them take on apprentices and trainees with less risk and stress. GTOs really are a service provider to these employers, and cover many of the bases that adversely affect completions.

Why GTOs can be useful

A press release from the National Apprentice Employment Network points out that:

“GTOs currently employ about 25,000 apprentices and trainees across Australia and have placed more than a million into work since their inception. They predominantly work with small and medium sized businesses, many of which would not be in a position to properly undertake apprentice employment were it not for group training.”

This is borne out as, according to NCVER’s report, GTOs “can be particularly helpful to small and medium-sized businesses, which often find making a commitment to an apprenticeship difficult, in that they lack the resources to manage an apprentice or trainee, or are unable to provide the comprehensive on-the-job training required for an apprenticeship or traineeship.” Small to medium-size employers make up a significant proportion of all GTO host employers.

Interviews with 15 GTOs NCVER studied “revealed no consistent pattern in their experiences with completion rates over the last five to 10 years.” However,  “Respondents with improved completion rates attributed their improved rates to:

  • weekly site visits with individual apprentices and trainees
  • pre-training, such as VET in Schools and prevocational courses
  • improved working conditions and support including long-term staff for stability of pastoral care relationships
  • their involvement in industries with low retention rates (such as hairdressing and hospitality) ceased.”

In addition, “the consulted GTOs identified lesser recognised advantages, including their:

  • approach to apprentices and trainees as clients rather than as employees or students
  • ability to act as neutral third parties in conflict resolution and provision of timely access to services
  • capacity to arrange access to industry experts
  • ability to make good matches between apprentices and trainees with hosts through their familiarity with the needs of the host
  • access to jobs not publicly visible
  • capacity to foster relationships with schools to impart insights into trades and non-trades careers to potential apprentices and trainees.”

However, both types of employers – GTOs and direct – “referred to drive, resilience and motivation, and the support offered by social networks and connections to the workplace as contributing to completions.” So, it is also about the qualities of the apprentices and trainees that are picked. But, literacy and numeracy levels can be an issue too.

The advantages of using GTOs include “security of employment (and correct rates of payment), support from field officers or mentors, flexibility in contract arrangements such as suspensions and the ability to move apprentices and trainees to different host employers, and the ability to gain a range of skills and experiences.”

And by the way

The NCVER report also has a support document, that includes a literature review. Sometimes these supplementary documents get overlooked, but they are often worth going to. Take a look at this too?