Apprenticeships continue their freefall

Australia’s apprenticeship system continued its freefall in 2018, with bad news in all important statistics reported in the latest National Apprentice and Trainee statistics.

The National Centre for Vocational and Educational Research (NCVER) reported that the number of apprentices in training as at 30 September, 2018 had fallen 0.6 per cent form the previous year to 267,385.

Over the previous year:

# commencements fell by 1.6%, to 158,640

# completions fell by 10.4%, to 86,880

# and cancellations and withdrawals rose by 0.8%, to 91 565.

The statistics were even bleaker on a quarterly comparison with the September quarter of the previous year – commencements fell 5.0 per cent and completions by 9.6 per cent.

Apprenticeship completions are now running at half the level they were only five years ago – there were 163,160 completions in 2014, but only 896,880 in the year to September 2018.

The latest statistics from NCVER follow a long series of declines which paint a picture of a sector in crisis.

Overall 2.1 per cent of the Australian workforce are apprentices or trainees, while 9.7 per cent of trades workers are in training.

While apprenticeships do not fully reflect the needs of tomorrow’s workforce, they are in constant decline when there is no apparent new and more flexible system to take their place.

And in any case, they are vital to the engineering and construction sectors which are carrying so much of the load in terms of Australian economic growth.

Strangely in a more complex and technical world, commencements in the category ‘engineering, ICT and science technicians’ suffered one of the largest falls.

Commencements fell in the five years from 4,540 to 2,380.

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