A review study looking back at the effects of Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns and restrictions on the VET sector has reaffirmed the particularly negative effects of the pandemic on apprentices and trainees.
The study, the Impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on VET by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), showed more than one in five Australian apprentices and trainees reported that the on-job-training component of their study had been delayed by Covid-19 in 2020.
While these figures later rebounded, suspensions in apprentice and trainee contracts increased by over 650 percent in March and April 2020, and by nearly 300 percent in May, by comparison with 2019 figures.
There were also significant declines in new apprentice and trainee contract commencements in the first months of the pandemic, in April and May 2020.
The industries hardest hit by suspensions included arts and recreation services, accommodation and food services, transport, postal and warehousing; retail trade, and agriculture and forestry and fishing.
Also, 6.7 percent of people who completed training in 2019 were temporarily stood down in 2020 due to Covid-19, and 34 percent had their work hours reduced.
Young women aged 18 to 24 years old represented the highest proportion of employees stood down or who experienced a decrease in working hours.
NCVER’s comparison of 2019 quantitative data with those of 2020 and 2021, cross-analysed with qualitative interview data, illustrates the various ways in which students were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Student enrolments declined sharply in the early stages of the pandemic, before bouncing back in late 2020 and into 2021.
Providers indicated that students’ reasons for returning to VET tended to be different from their pre-COVID motivations – for example, enrolling in training they deemed would lead to more secure employment; being inspired to embark on a new career path; and/or wanting to make the most of government incentives targeted at specific industries.
Finally, satisfaction with various aspects of the training, as well as employment outcomes, remained relatively positive for most students.