The Australian Vocational Education and Training (VET) system is designed to support learners develop the skills and knowledge for work, and to enable employers to hire and upskill staff with the skills and knowledge needed in the workplace.

Australian Apprenticeships take this one step further: learners are employed while undertaking their VET qualification, and employers are training staff through a VET qualification and within the workplace.

This means that the VET and Australian Apprenticeships systems must meet the needs of both learners and employers. Each year the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) surveys both learners and employers about their interaction with the VET system. The VET Student Outcomes Report will be released in December and will be covered in part 2 of this blog mini-series. Apprentice and Trainee Outcomes will be released in the first half of 2024.

Employer use of VET

NCVER’s report Employers’ use and views of the VET system 2023 looks at the type of training that employers engage with, their requirements for staff to hold vocational qualifications, their use of apprenticeships and traineeships, and their satisfaction with the training undertaken by staff.

This snapshot of employer activities and views gives us insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the VET and Australian Apprenticeships systems.

Use of training

The majority of employers reported that they provide training to their staff: only 9.7% of employers did not provide any training to their employees. Of those employers who did not provide training, the top reasons were that there was no need and that employees were already trained.

The remaining 90% of employers did use some form of training, with many employers using more than one method of training. Only 56.8% used accredited training, while 54.4% used unaccredited training and 81.2% used informal training. Between 2021 and 2023, the use of accredited training remained stable, while the use of unaccredited and informal training both increased.

Accredited training
Unaccredited training
Informal training

Use of apprenticeships and traineeships

Nearly a third of employers (31.3%) reported that they used apprenticeships and traineeships, an increase from 2021. Of these employers, most reported that they employed apprentices and trainees to get skilled staff and improve staff skills, while half reported that they use this method to fill specific roles within their organisation.

Top reasons for employing apprentices and trainees:

To get skilled staff and improve staff skills

To fill a specific role or need more staff

To train to own requirements

Usual business practice to employ apprentices/trainees

To give young people a head start

Satisfaction with training

Overall, employers were satisfied that accredited training met their skills needs, however there is room for improvement with between 8-13% being dissatisfied with training.

Reasons for dissatisfaction vary depending on why the employer was using accredited training, however top reasons for all groups include:

  • poor quality or low standard of training
  • relevant skills were not taught
  • not enough focus on practical skills
  • training is too general and not specific enough
  • instructors do not have enough industry experience.

Training for apprentices and trainees

Apprenticeships and traineeships include VET qualifications, but have an additional level of complexity due to the combined on and off the job training involved in this model. There are additional services and supports available for employers of apprentices and trainees.

12.2% of employers of apprentices and trainees were dissatisfied with training, with many overlapping issues that all employers face. An issue specifically related to Australian Apprenticeships is insufficient communication between the training provider and employment agency, reported by a third of dissatisfied employers.

Reasons for dissatisfaction of apprentice and trainee training:

Relevant skills are not taught

Training is of a poor quality or low standard

Insufficient communication between training provider and employment agency

Training is too general and not specific enough

Not enough focus on practical skills

Improving the system

Positively, there is work underway across the VET system to address each of these issues, which should decrease levels of dissatisfaction with training for employers.

The introduction of Jobs and Skills Councils (JSCs) aims to “provide industry with a stronger voice to ensure Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) sector delivers better outcomes for learners and employers.” Through their work, JSCs will develop training products that meet the needs of their industry, through a process which includes industry collaboration and work with training providers to lift outcomes.

At the same time, VET Qualification Reform is developing and testing new structures for VET qualifications to ensure that training meets the needs of industry. These two major changes to the VET system are designed to increase the standard of training and better align it with the skills needed by industry, while allowing for flexibility to meet the needs of employers and learners.

The development of a VET Workforce Blueprint will support training providers to attract and retain staff, and improve the skills of current staff to better meet industry needs.

Improving apprenticeships and traineeships

A reason for dissatisfaction for employers of apprentices and trainees, unique to the apprenticeships system, is the relationship between the training provider and the agency supporting the apprenticeship or traineeship. Australian Apprenticeship Support Network providers work with employers, apprentices and trainees, and training providers to support and facilitate the Australian Apprenticeship.

With a third of dissatisfied employers reporting insufficient communication between the training provider and agency as a reason for dissatisfaction, it is clear that work needs to be done to improve this relationship.

In 2024, an updated model of Australian Apprenticeship Support Services will commence, with aims to strengthen the system with greater support for employers and apprentices and trainees.