The number of people starting apprenticeships and traineeships is falling, with 8600 fewer people commencing an apprenticeship or traineeship in September 2015 compared to the same time in 2014 according to national data released last week.
This amounts to a 19.3% decline in the number of people commencing training and is coupled with a 13.7% decrease of the number of apprentices and trainees currently in-training during the September quarter.
The data, published by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), provides a picture of apprenticeship and traineeship activity nationally and by state and territory.
A total 127,200 people completed their training in the 12 months from September 2014 to September 2015, a decrease of 21.5% from the previous 12 months.
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However, it’s not all bad news as the number of cancellations and withdrawals from apprenticeships and traineeships have also decreased by 10.7% compared to 2014.
According to trend estimates from NCVER, trade commencements have declined over the past three quarters from March 2015 to December 2015.
The total number of apprentices has fallen by almost 123,000 over the past two years, after a peak of 446,000 in September 2013.
Apprentices and trainees commencement numbers have fallen across each state and territory, with the largest decrease in the Northern Territory of 16.5%.
Dr Mette Creaser, NCVER national manager of statistics and analytics, said in a statement several factors may have contributed to the decline in both commencement and in-training numbers.
“Previous NCVER research has shown that a subdued labour market and the uncapping of university places have an impact on the number of people entering into apprenticeships and traineeships,” she said.
Peter Strong, chief executive of the Council of Small Business of Australia, told SmartCompany this morning the results show skilled training is at a crisis point.
“The apprenticeship system is in major crisis,” he says.
“The cost of it has grown and employers are challenged by how much they have to spend and the quality is questionable.
“We don’t think there needs to be an increase in money what we need is to change the way that’s money is spent.”
Strong says funding should be channelled through appropriate industry associations that deal directly with employers of apprentices and trainees.
“What that means is the training will have to be what the members of that association wants so it would be driven by the customer, in this case the small business person and their staff,” he says.
“At the moment training is driven by the needs of the training organisations.”
Strong says there needs to be more consideration given to the timing of training, pointing to the rural sector where he says training runs during harvest time – the busiest time of the year.
“It’s just ridiculous to have people taken off the farms when they’ve going to do learning and into the classroom,” he says.
Strong believes current incentives for apprenticeships and traineeships should be changed and more money is not necessarily the answer. However, he says how the funding is distributed needs attention.
“Too much money goes to the training organisation that should be going to the employer,” he says.
Overall Strong says recent changes around apprenticeships and skilled trainees have significantly increased costs for employers and created confusion in the industry.
“They’re not receiving enough training and the training is not of quality,” he says.
“On those that need skilled staff its impacting severely.
It impacts on the customer as well when the quality of the service is not what it should be…it is a crisis.”
Declines in the commencement of apprenticeships and traineeships across states and territories in the past 12 months:
Northern Territory – 16.5%
Australian Capital Territory – 13.7%
New South Wales – 12.9%
Tasmania – 12.6%
South Australia – 12.1%
Western Australia – 7.8%
Victoria – 6.1%
Queensland – 4.9%