The decline in apprentices and the current ‘skills shortage’ faced by Australia is driven by a diverse number of factors. Historical reasoning points to a mixture of quasi-market policy in industrial relations in the 1990s and early 2000s, a steady increase in competition in the training market, the changing nature of youth involvement in apprenticeships and the perceived value of apprenticeships in the market.
Overall, retention rates are low as apprentices are often faced with many barriers while undertaking training. A range of factors contribute to non-completion of training which includes personal, demographic, structural, economic, educational, political and environmental conditions2. In short, many issues exist around overall productivity of the apprenticeship and trainee system and the problem as a whole is complex. Technological, educational and lifestyle advancements over the last 50 years mean that the apprenticeship and trainee system cannot continue to be antiquated and must modernise.
In order to support Australia through the current skills shortage, policy makers, employers, industry associations, not-for-profit organisations, unions and apprentices need to come together to provide their insights into successful and motivating programs for young people. This will act as a measure to increase the retention rates of young people entering apprenticeships and skills training, as well as encouraging young people to take up trades and training as an alternative to university or unskilled work.