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Three ways to collectively improve apprentice completion rates

Employers are one of the most crucial factors in the apprenticeship completion .


In fact, research from NCVER has shown employment-related reasons are among the most common reasons for not completing. Reasons for quitting included interpersonal difficulties with employers or colleagues, being made redundant, or simply not liking the work.


It’s clear employers – for good or for ill – play an outsized role in completion chances.


But there are other factors in the mix, including the role of off-the-job training that apprentices are engaged in, and the way systems surface information in the sector. How can we support a better service and support lifecycle for apprentices?


1. Using data to build employer best practice


Building employer best practice and support should be a focus of change. But how?  


ReadyTech’s experience across its information systems for Australian Apprenticeships Support Network (AASNs) providers as well as Group Training Organisations (GTOs), shows there is a lot that employers can learn from each other about great on-the-job training.


And one of the best ways to do this is by using the vast amounts of data available to us.


We believe it is possible for the apprenticeships sector to conduct deeper analysis of actual employer apprenticeship management practices – factoring in both the good and the bad – to better establish the factors that contribute to success (and those that do not).


By understanding at a granular level the factors that influence completion, the sector could launch targeted industry initiatives that encourage progress towards better practice.


We could profile the leaders and lift the laggards on how to do things better.


This would go some way towards supporting smaller or less experienced employers to improve the experiences of apprentices. They could be made aware of what works in peer organisations, and work towards elevating the experience they provide.


Some factors our own machine learning model has identified as impacting completion risk, for example, are business size, whether a business has employed an apprentice before, supervisor arrangements, and whether they have peers, among many others.


We could also consider extending our support service model to include employers.


2. Improvements to off-the-job training models


ReadyTech provides technology for over 1000 training providers (including TAFEs and RTOs), some of whom deliver the off-the-job training for apprentices. This gives us a unique view of how today’s apprentices engage with the training system as part of their learning lifecycle.


Could off-the-job training be evolved to support better apprentice completion outcomes?


In recent times, ReadyTech took a deep dive into this question. We worked in partnership with international management consultancy Nous Group and our three TAFE customers – Bendigo Kangan Institute, Chisholm Institute, and Melbourne Polytechnic.


The landmark project - which is a great example of how TAFEs and others can work together to share best practice - asked how TAFEs could evolve the apprenticeships lifecycle to improve paint points like completion rates.


The results suggest a few things. First, injecting flexibility into training delivery models would benefit employers and apprentices. At present, most training is managed through day or block release arrangements. This can be difficult for employers to manage alongside the peaks, troughs and unpredictability of operating their businesses. It also restricts apprentices from progressing once they acquire skills; they become tied to the training schedule of a training provider and the cohort of the peers they are in training with.


The TAFEs we service are doing a lot to show how this flexibility could work in practice. For example, some TAFEs are offering variations on a ‘Class of One’ arrangement. This allows learners in the same niche to access a teacher or trainer alongside peers of different levels of progression within one classroom at the same time. Alongside more online learning, this could change training to encourage both flexible access and progression for apprentices.


3. Leveraging communication and information systems


As a provider of a variety of different information management systems for this sector, we can see how building ‘information as confidence’ across the sector could support the current and future needs of both apprentices and employers – and boost completions.


In fact, we would go so far as to say access to information for stakeholders through the right channel at the right time is critical to improving the level of apprenticeship lifecycle success.


Today, any stakeholder in the system should really be able to know where anything they care about is at any point in time. If an apprentice is sent to a TAFE, for example, their employer should be able to know whether they are attending and progressing well.


Information management needs to take account of specific preferences of stakeholder groups, like employers, as well as convenience. An employer, for example, should have the capacity to be able to opt-in to information being delivered, as and when needed.


Using the previous example, the employer may be able to set preferences that allow them to be notified about their apprentice if certain things are met, in areas like attendance, progress, or fee payments. This could help them sort the signal from the noise.


Read more about the landmark project ReadyTech undertook in collaboration with Bendigo Kangan Institute, Melbourne Polytechnic, Chisholm Institute, and Nous Group here.