Apprentice retention

It is an unfortunate reality that a percentage of apprentice and trainees do not complete their Australian Apprenticeships. Non-completion of apprenticeships is a major issue for Australian industry including agricultural sectors.

Retention is the responsibility of not only the apprentice or trainee; it is the shared, collective responsibility of the apprentice, the employer, the RTO and to some degree the Australian Apprenticeship Centre and each apprenticeship is to some extent unique, having its own particular needs and circumstances.

Research suggests that apprentices are more likely to complete their training and apprenticeship if they:

  • commence with an already developed interest and understanding of the job
  • have some life experience and a reasonable level of maturity
  • have a ‘stable’ personal life and the support of family/friends
  • have aspirations for themselves in the occupation and the industry
  • understand the commitment they are undertaking in time and training

Research also suggests that a systematic approach to (attracting and) retaining apprentices will, in all likelihood, prove most successful; a systematic approach that is evidence based, targeted, customised, continuously improved, and prioritised will provide the best results.

More information regarding this approach is available in several Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry reports including “Boosting Australian Apprenticeships”.

* the following is an extract from “A Guide to Managing the First 100 days of an Apprenticeship” reproduced with the permission of Australian Industry Group

“A persistent feature of the apprenticeship system in Australia is the high attrition rate: According to National Centre for Vocational Education Research around 30% of apprenticeships are terminated in the first six months and the majority of these are terminated in the first three months.

The so called ‘non-completion rate’ is a complex number, and it is often the preferred outcome for all parties that an apprenticeship is discontinued in its early stages, rather than some years into the apprenticeship. Most commonly, a basic mismatch occurs between the expectations of one or both of the employer and the apprentice. If an unsatisfactory arrangement is wound up sooner rather than later, it means the apprentice can move on to another employment or training position and will have wasted minimal time and resources pursuing an area that does not interest them, and the employer will have invested minimal time, money and effort in a person who is unable or unwilling to commit over the long term. This is one of the main purposes of the probationary period – for both parties to be in a position to make an informed decision at an early stage.

Nevertheless, it is in the best interests of employers and apprentices that both parties avoid a situation that calls for the apprenticeship to be terminated.

The roundtables confirmed that there is a real need to provide a better understanding of what the apprenticeship will involve in the first 100 days. Opportunities for improvement include:

  • on-the-job training and coaching;
  • effective supervision at tradesman level;
  • marketing apprenticeships through schools;
  • interviewing and selection processes;
  • clarity on work to be performed in the first 100 days; and
  • expectation of what out of hours study may be needed.

It was raised repeatedly at the roundtable discussions that Y Generation members have expectations that do not match those of the current workforce. It was also clear that members of the roundtable discussions were passionate in their commitment to find ways to improve the communication between the two groups so that the expectations of both parties are better aligned.”

For additional background reading, review Section 4: Retaining a New Australian Apprentice in A Guide to Managing the First 100 days of an Apprenticeship (reproduced with the permission of Australian Industry Group)