The latest data showing that the number of apprentices and trainees continues to fall reflects the long-term indifference shown to the vocational education and training sector by state and federal governments over the past six years, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said today.
Data for the December 2016 quarter released this week by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research shows that the number of apprentices and trainees in training has fallen to 265,000, down 4.5 per cent on a year earlier and down more than 40 per cent on four years earlier.
Apprenticeship commencements last year were half what they were just five years earlier, from 70,000 in 2011 down to 36,200 in 2016.
Jenny Lambert, Director of Employment, Education and Training at the Australian Chamber, said: “These latest figures reinforce the critical message that employers have been delivering: all levels of government must do more to help the VET sector and recognise the importance of apprenticeships for the wider economy.
“It was pleasing to see that the Federal Government’s new Skilling Australians Fund, announced in this year’s Budget, will focus on apprenticeships through partnerships with the States.
“The fund’s aim – an additional 300,000 apprentices over four years – is vital if we are to make up the lost ground of recent years. This will only happen if the negotiations over the fund elicit strong and positive cooperation from the states and territories as well as meaningful input from industry.
“Industry needs strong an early input, not just a seat at the table. This was a clear message from Australian Chamber industry members when they met in Melbourne this week.
“The Australian Chamber is involved in discussions with the Federal Government and looks forward to ongoing engagement to shape the best possible arrangements to arrest the decline and increase apprenticeship numbers.”
In March the Australian Chamber joined with other business leaders in calling for decisive action to rescue Australia’s ailing apprenticeship system.