Planning and decision-making

The first thing to consider, is why hire an Australian Apprentice? There are many benefits to your business by taking on an apprentice, and a great many ways of structuring the arrangements to suit your needs.

However, the decision to take on an apprentice should not be taken lightly.  A rural apprenticeship will involve a contractual commitment, between you and your apprentice for a nominated period, normally not less than twelve months and up to thirty six months, depending on your state or territory arrangements. During this period the business will need to be able to:

  • meet the wage costs even in lean times;
  • provide the level of supervision;
  • meet the training obligations; and
  • provide a safe working environment.

Australian Apprenticeships

Australian Apprenticeships (often referred to as simply apprenticeships or traineeships) offer opportunities for anyone of working age to train, study and simultaneously earn an income in a wide range of occupations and trades.

They are available in more than 500 occupations at all certificate levels up to Advanced Diploma and provide nationally recognised quality training developed by industry for industry.

School-leavers can benefit from an Australian Apprenticeship by earning an income while they gain a valuable trade. More and more, mature age (over 25) workers can also benefit from apprenticeships by upgrading their skills while continuing employment.

Some benefits of Australian Apprenticeships

  • In weighing up the decision whether to employ an apprentice or an experienced worker consider the following:
  • Availability – sometimes experienced workers are in short supply where enthusiastic school leavers may be seeking work, or mature aged workers may wish to work while they up skill.
  • Cost – apprentices can be cost effective, especially with government incentives. In the long run, an apprentice who continues working with you after their apprenticeship finishes can become a great value proposition for your business.
  • Flexibility of employment options – can be full-time, part-time or school-based, depending on what suits your business. Also through schemes like those offered by Group Training Australia, apprentices can be hired ‘part time’ or for busy periods, without the challenges of hiring casual or seasonal staff.
  • Match to your requirements – the training you provide and the ‘off-the-job’ training can be negotiated to meet your business needs.

With these in mind, it is useful to know more about how Australian Apprenticeships work.

About Australian Apprenticeships

How long does an Australian Apprenticeship take?

An Australian Apprenticeship can take from one to four years to complete, depending on the type of Australian Apprenticeship and the qualification undertaken.

Australian Apprentices may be granted course credits for any skills they already have, as well as their prior experience in the workplace, potentially reducing their formal training time.

Many Australian Apprenticeships are 'competency based' which means Australian Apprentices can complete their training sooner if they get to the required skills levels more quickly than usual, or have previous work experience that is recognised through ‘recognition of prior learning processes’.

Cost of employing an Australian Apprentice

Australian Apprentices are usually employed under a federal or state award (WA only).

For traineeships, they are paid a wage, which varies depending on the number of years of school completed, the year of their training they are in, the type of Australian Apprenticeship they are undertaking and the industry or occupation.

This traineeship wage will usually be lower than the equivalent award wage for the level of work performed to take into account that the employee is engaged as a rule in the equivalent of one day a week structured training, that may be on and/or off-the-job. 

Typically, Australian Apprentices engaged in four year traditional trades are paid a percentage of a tradesperson rate that increases as each year is satisfactorily completed. 

Other than the training aspect, Australian Apprentices are treated like any other employee. They have the same rights to superannuation, workers' compensation and other entitlements or requirements as all other workers in Australia.

See the Awards and Employment Contracts for details about the National Training Wage and which awards apply in the rural industries.

Available government incentives

The Australian Government has introduced a number of initiatives to assist employers who take on an Australian Apprentice, particularly where the Australian Apprenticeship is in a trade experiencing a skills shortage. These initiatives provide financial incentives to eligible employers through the Australian Apprenticeships Incentives Program. Employers of an Australian Apprentice may be eligible for financial assistance through:

  • Standard, additional and special incentives
  • Support for Adult Australian Apprentices
  • Assistance for Australian Apprentices with Disability
  • Support for employing an Australian School-based Apprentice

Eligibility for incentives under the Australian Apprenticeships Incentives Program may be affected by the duration of the employment relationship you have with your current employee. 

Standard, additional and special incentives
Employers of Australian Apprentices may be eligible to claim commencement and completion incentive payments of up to $4,000 for employing an Australian Apprentice at the Certificate III to Advanced Diploma level (subject to meeting the required eligibility criteria). 

There is also a range of additional incentives available to employers of an Australian Apprentice including the:

  • Declared Drought area incentive
  • Rural and Regional Skills Shortage incentive
  • Mature Aged Worker incentive

Support for Adult Australian Apprentices Payment Initiative
The Support for Adult Australian Apprentices payment initiative provides financial support to Australian Apprentices or their employers where the Australian Apprentice is aged 25 or over at the commencement of their Australian Apprenticeship on or after 1 January 2010, and is undertaking an Australian Apprenticeship at the Certificate III or IV level in an occupation experiencing a skills shortage.

Assistance for Australian Apprentices with Disability
Assistance for employers of Australian Apprentices with disability includes Disabled Australian Apprentice Wage Support and Assistance for Tutorial, Interpreter and Mentor Services. 

Each form of assistance is intended to help Australian Apprentices with a disability to reach their full potential.

Australian School-based Apprenticeships Incentive
Employers may be eligible for a $750 commencement incentive for employing an Australian Apprentice in an endorsed Australian School-based Apprenticeship at the Certificate II, III, and IV, Diploma or Advanced Diploma level and $750 for continuing to employ the young person after the student has completed Year 12.

Living Away From Home Allowance
The Living Away From Home Allowance (LAFHA) provides assistance to eligible Australian Apprentices in their first three years of training, if they: 

  • have to move away from their parents’ or guardians’ home in order to take up or remain in an Australian Apprenticeship, or
  • receive essential supplementary on-the-job training with another employer, or
  • are homeless. 

Tools For Your Trade Payment Initiative
The Tools For Your Trade Payment initiative provides up to five tax exempt payments to eligible Australian Apprentices over the life of their Australian Apprenticeship. The payment initiative is available to Australian Apprentices who meet the required eligibility and who are undertaking an Australian Apprenticeship in a trade occupation listed on the National Skills Needs List, agricultural occupation, and if in rural and regional Australian, a horticultural occupation.

Agriculture and horticulture occupation(s)
Australian Apprentices commencing in Certificate II, III and IV Agriculture (Australia wide) or Horticulture (in rural and regional Australia only) qualifications on or after 1 July 2007 may be eligible for the Tools For Your Trade payment initiative.

  • As an agricultural Australian Apprentice, you must be undertaking an Australian Apprenticeship in any Certificate level II, III or IV qualification in agriculture - anywhere across Australia.
  • As a horticultural Australian Apprentice, you must be undertaking training in any Certificate level II, III or IV qualification in horticulture in rural and regional areas of Australia.

Other assistance and incentives may be available from your state or territory training authority.

See the Australian Apprenticeships website Government incentives for more information.

Where to next?

Having made the decision to take on an apprentice, now review the steps to plan your approach.

NOTE: Also, your State and territory governments may provide advice and assistance: