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Skills crisis driving big ideas in apprenticeships

A lack of skilled workers is driving renewed interest in how Australia can channel new skilled workers through our apprenticeships and training system.


National skills crisis, anyone?


Providers in apprenticeships are well aware of this problematic issue. With a skilled worker gap in Australia closing in on 500,000 jobs, new Skills and Training Minister, Brendan O’Connor, recently pointed out that we currently have the second worst skills problem in the OECD.


The question is, what are we going to do about it?


Apprenticeships will play a key role. With numbers going through the apprenticeships system having grown fast and completions for now on the up, there is a lot to be positive about. In fact, it seems universities are losing out to VET and apprenticeships enrolments.


This is driving big ideas and change. Here's four that are doing the rounds.


1. The rise of degree apprenticeships


The ‘degree apprenticeship’ has not taken off in Australia like in the UK, but there are signs large employers and industries, working together with education and training providers and governments, will look to expand these programs. They offer an ‘earn and learn’ approach where students work and learn on the job and end up with a degree at the end of the process.


Two are launching next year. Deloitte, in partnership with TAFE NSW, the University of Wollongong and Swinburne University, is launching a degree program in cybersecurity. Likewise, Victoria University is working with BAE Systems and Australian Industry Group to create an engineering degree where students will spend most of the time in the workplace.


2. Fast-tracked apprenticeships training


Could apprenticeships be done in just two years? It’s a question that was favoured by the former Minister of Employment & Workforce Skills, Stuart Robert, who argued that we needed to break away from the current four year apprenticeship model, working collectively with the apprenticeships sector and with the support of government for the transition.


He set up BHP’s FutureFit academy as an example. Here, in Mackay and in Perth, apprentices get the chance to learn on the job, and are trained and fully signed off in their apprenticeships in just two years. BHP’s boasts that it has ‘purpose built learning centres that feature the latest immersive VR technology combined with workshop learning’.


3. Migration and skills training


With skills very very short, the Business Council of Australia is leading a charge to utilise migration, alongside continued reform of Australia’s own skills system, to supply businesses with the skills they need. Recently, CEO Jennifer Westacott singled out targeted migration to fill skills shortages at every skill level, involving keeping safeguards but speeding up visas.


One idea, which would also help to build stronger relationships and support for our region in addition to skills in Australia, would see Pacific Islanders given visa pathways for full time work, training and apprenticeships in Australia. This could involve four-year visas, and migrants taking courses at TAFEs, universities or other training providers.


4. Wage rises for apprentices


A number of parties in the apprenticeships space welcomed the Fair Work Commission’s recent decision to increase the minimum wage by 5.2%, supporting some of the country’s lowest paid workers to meet the rising cost of living. However, they’ve also been critical that, as a crucial plank in our skills future, apprentices missed out on the full increase.


With warnings that inflation could hit 7% this year, there are calls for apprentice wages to be brought in line with the higher increase in the minimum wage. This would support continued interest in the channel when it comes to commencements, as well as supporting those in training to sustainably complete their four-year apprenticeship with a strong completion.


Interested in finding out how ReadyTech can improve apprentice management and support with technology? Learn more here.