Would teaching trade training options to primary school students help encourage more apprenticeship opportunities?

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday
Ahead of the Federal Budget 2024-2025, an employer of more than 800 apprentices and trainees says more should be done to embed trade training and skills into the general school curriculum to make school students more aware of diverse career options.
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“Recent data shows a significant decline in apprentice and trainee commencements, which is concerning, and it is anticipated that changes to the apprenticeship and trainee incentive structure that are due to kick in from 1 July 2024 will see that decline accelerate.”

Ahead of today’s Federal Budget, those insights from Troy Williams at the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia make it clear that addressing our national skill shortage by finding sustainable ways to encourage more young people into trade qualifications needs to be actioned.

One education into employment specialist, with over two decades experience designing and implementing dynamic vocational training and workforce development programs across all ages – from youth to young adults and transitioning mature workers – says fixing the problem needs to start from the earliest stages of a child’s education, to show diverse pathways available to students whose dreams may include more than traditional university degrees.

Andrew Sezonov has been an expert advisor and lead consultant on numerous projects involving leading Australian corporates, Fortune 500 companies, as well as governments in Australia and the USA. Mr Sezonov is also Group General Manager of WPC Group, which directly employs over 800 apprentices and trainees – and he spoke to EducationDaily to share his insights into how we can improve access and attitudes to vocational education and skills training for apprentices.

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  • What more needs to be done to encourage more secondary school leavers to pursue trade training?

Continuing to embed trade training and skills into the general school curriculum (from late primary school onwards), ensuring early introduction to these options are made available; bringing industry into the schools to lead discussions around what skills are required when they leave school to commence an apprenticeship or traineeship; role models / ambassadors; connecting school students to recently completed (or current) apprentices, who can share their journey; offering various taster and try-a-trade experiences where students can roll up their sleeves and get a taste of what their chosen vocation looks like; influencing the influencers by brining parents/guardians on the journey and ensuring they are well equipped with the right information to make informed decisions and MOST importantly, students don’t have to chose between a trade and university, if sequenced correctly they can do both!

  • In what ways will the upcoming Budget support this? How much further should it have gone?

Fee-Free Training will be announced in the upcoming budget, though from our experiences this will generally not increase the numbers of apprentices and trainees, or assist to correct the poor completion rates that exist. People entering this market are looking for inclusive workplaces, that will have suitably qualified people available to train them at the level required, and provide wrap around services (mentoring) to ensure they complete their apprenticeship.

There will be some funding allocated towards Pre-Apprenticeship programs, which is a good use of funds as long as this is available to current school students to complete a pre-app whilst undertaking their secondary school studies. This will ensure they can more seamlessly enter the full-time paid apprenticeship post-completion at school.

  • What can be done to encourage more young women to pursue trade qualifications?

Early intervention at school – later years of primary school. Starting to weave the narrative of trades into general conversations, curriculum and opportunities for women – and, as above, identifying role-models / ambassadors (not celebs, as they too far removed from the norm!) and linking those to young women, so they can identify and aspire to take that career direction – thus taking away the stigma for young women.

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Also ensuring workplaces are adequately prepared to embrace women in what once may have been a ‘male dominated area’.

  • Is fixing the problem around skills shortages about providing more fee relief for potential students/apprentices, or more relief for the businesses who may hire them?

Taking on an apprenticeship is costly, its about ensuring the balance of funding is proportionate to the needs of both industry and people entering industry through apprenticeship. For those entering the industry funding needs to be targeted at ensuring workplaces have mentors (adequately trained) that can mentor and guide people through their apprenticeship.

  • How would you like to see trade qualifications embedded within the school curriculum?

There needs to be a targeted and planned national strategy around lifting the value of an apprenticeship in Australia. This will ensure both students and their influencers (parents) see apprenticeship as an equally viable option post-school, to university, and as stated earlier ensuring that people know that you can undertake both an apprenticeship and university if sequenced properly.

Later years of high school, they have done well at embedding apprenticeship training into the curriculum. To ensure more uptake, this embedding needs to happen from later years of primary school.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live