The Federal Government has proposed reducing the length of apprenticeships from four years to two.
Speaking at the National Apprentice Employment Network’s national conference in Hobart last month, the Minister for Employment & Workforce Skills, Stuart Robert, said it is already being done at the BHP training academy in North Queensland.
He said all of the apprenticeships at BHP are completed in two years.
“These apprentices are fully signed off after two years and that is no mean feat by any stretch of the imagination,” Robert said.
“Is there an opportunity for us collectively, with the support of government, to lead the way on the next and perhaps final step of apprenticeships to break away from our current model? “Is there an opportunity to embrace what BHP is about and fully step towards a competency model that can collapse and condense as required?”
Robert said the good news is that completion rates for apprenticeships are at an all time high.
However, Australia needs 86,000 completing apprentices each year.
“We need to start turning the dial away from commencements, to completions which is vital,” Robert said.
He said when apprenticeships arrived in Australia more than 200 years ago they were eight years long.
After World War 1 apprenticeships dropped from six to five years.
Today they are at four years but trials are underway to reduce it even further.
For example, South Australia is trialling dual apprenticeships that can be completed in four years.
Robert said a million new jobs will be created across the economy in the next five years.
“We know we saw almost a billion created over the last five years. More than 90 per cent of new jobs emerging over the next five years will require post school qualifications,” he said.
“A sizeable 38 per cent of skills shortages are in occupations with a vocational pathway.
“In the early days of Australia, the demand for skills massively outstripped supply for workers. And here we are, 230 years later, facing the same issue.
“But unlike that time, we aren't going to prioritise the importation of labour, because today we have an option to skill our existing labour first.”
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CCN has contacted industry groups about this issue and they are drafting a formal response.