The Skilling Australians Fund and impossible Australian Apprenticeships targets?

Data from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection shows a decrease in the number of people in-training, with commencements and completions also decreasing from December 2016 to December 2017. From 2013 to 2017, commencements have decreased by 33.3%, completions have decreased by 50.7% and numbers of Australian Apprentices in-training has decreased by 32.8%. In terms of gender, over this same time the numbers of males commencing has decreased by 29.1% and for females it is a staggering 40%.

The Skilling Australians Fund states that, “An estimated $1.5 billion will be available from the Commonwealth for the ongoing Fund between 2017–18 to 2021–22 an additional 300 000 apprenticeships and traineeships nationally over four years.

In 2017–18, the Australian Government provided around $170 million from the Fund to support approximately 50,000 additional apprentices, trainees, pre-apprentices, pre-trainees and employment-related training projects, ahead of the commencement of the Fund’s National Partnership Agreement (NPA).” But commencements and completions have declined.

South Australian statistics

Taking South Australia as an example, there has long been the suggestion that if you have limited funding then you would make Australian Apprenticeships a #1 priority (funding Registered Training Organisations beyond TAFE SA) as this is a true indication of employer and workforce demand. Reviewing the stats, there are currently 14 725 in training as at 31 December 2017 down by -7.8% from December 2016. There is a significant gender differential with +0.7% from 2016 for males and -11.7% from 2016 for females. From 2013 to 2017, commencements have decreased by -49.5%, completions -58.2% and numbers in training -52.0%.

The Government of South Australia has committed to providing $100 million to secure matched funding to support an additional 20,800 apprenticeship and traineeship commencements in South Australia via the Skilling Australians Fund. That is 5200 additional commencements each year for 4 years – nearly a 60% increase on top of 2017 numbers which seems impossible to achieve. So where could these new commencements come from?

Engaging Small Medium Enterprises, Entrepreneurs and Female Founders

According to the latest ABS statistics, there are more than 143,000 small businesses (employing fewer than 20 people) operating in South Australia, or 98 per cent of all businesses in the state.


The Skilling Australians Fund needs an innovative approach to reach anything like these additional places and one easy solution would be for those Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to be supported to employ School Based Australian Apprentices (or part time/full time Australian Apprentices) in areas such as Business to improve productivity, manage digital tasks and implement new discovery technologies. Focusing on this group could see SMEs going from boot strapping to booming in a short space of time, with only 3.64% of these businesses needing to take on a young person to reach the target for SA.

Another area to encourage on is engaging females in Australian Apprenticeships and this could also support a proposal to enable Female Founders and Innovators to scale up their businesses from South Australia, creating export opportunities and new jobs. In terms of scaling up, there are opportunities to utilise the sister city relationships that the City of Adelaide and numerous councils hold as the gateway to Asia and the USA. With role models and entrepreneurs, it you can’t see it then you can’t believe it and there is much evidence to support inventors and entrepreneurs coming from the ranks of Australian Apprenticeships. This entrepreneurial and self-employment pathways could be promoted more via Australian Apprenticeship Ambassadors, VET Alumni and apprentices/trainees that have become employers.

For recommendations on how to improve apprenticeships and traineeships go to:

Future-proofing the South Australian apprenticeship and traineeship system

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