While more Australians are taking on apprenticeships, the number of apprentices who complete their training continues to fall. The 2018 annual report from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) showed that only 59.6 per cent of students who took on vocational training in 2013 completed their qualification in 2017. Why do we lose nearly half of our apprentices before they qualify?
The majority of apprentices who leave tend to do so early on. Up to 80 percent of non-completers pull the plug in the first two years of their apprenticeship, with 60 per cent of those quitting in their first year. Twenty per cent of non-completers terminate their contract within the first month.
Data collected on completion rates since 2000 have shown consistently similar reasons for high drop out rates within trades. Not getting on with the boss or other employees is the main reason for termination of contracts. The only variable was during 2010 with almost a quarter of non-completions being related to the Global Financial Crisis. Not liking the trade or deciding to do another qualification also ranked highly among reasons to leave. Surprisingly, low pay rates come in toward the bottom end of the top five reasons to leave an apprenticeship.
The data shows us that those who drop out in the first two years are more likely to cite problems in the workplace and those who terminate their contract in the last two years tend to do it for personal reasons, such as wanting to pursue a different career path.
NCVER caught up with non-completers nine months after dropping out and found that 75 per cent of the ex-apprentices were employed. A further 17 per cent went on to study something further at TAFE and two per cent pursued university-level education. Although the overwhelming majority of the participants were employed, only 25 per cent were in the same field and just seven per cent were with the same employer.
What we do know is that larger companies with structured training programs have considerably better attrition rates. Feedback from apprentices who leave suggests that being treated like “cheap labour” was the main reason they left. Apprentices most likely to go the distance said they were given structured, regular training sessions, handed the reigns on individual projects, and reported feeling like part of a the team. Apprentices who completed pre-vocational training and had a better understanding of the industry were also more likely to complete their qualification.