Pandemic’s path of disruption for apprentices

April and May last year were the peaks of a massive shift in Australia’s apprentice system due to the Covid-19 pandemic, however the situation has now all but reversed.

New research from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) found that in the first six months of 2020, the number of suspended apprentice and trainee contracts increased significantly.

But by September suspensions had fallen to levels that were lower than the previous year, according to the report Apprentices and trainees 2020: impacts of COVID-19 on training activity.

The report tracks monthly trends in contract commencements, suspensions, cancellations and withdrawals and completions.

The research shows that, following the introduction of health restrictions to combat the pandemic, contract suspensions increased more than 650 per cent in the months of March and April of 2020.

This was followed by a further rise of 300 per cent in May.

There was also a marked decline in new apprentice and trainee contract commencements in April and May, which continued to fluctuate between June and September of that year.

However, by September 2020, the increase in the number of suspended apprentice and trainee contracts had reversed and was around 10 per cent lower than the same time in 2019.

And in October, coinciding with the introduction of government initiatives, the number of commencements rebounded strongly and remained above 2019 levels in November and December 2020.

The influence of the pandemic was much less pronounced on apprentice and trainee contract cancellations and withdrawals, and contract completions.

For cancellations and withdrawals, this may be attributed to a combination of government support measures targeting retention, such as JobKeeper, and apprentices and trainees’ hesitation to seek other employment opportunities given the poor employment outlook during most of 2020.

Picture: NCVER

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