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Apprenticeships and traineeships

What are apprenticeships and traineeships?

An apprenticeship or traineeship is a training contract between an employer and an employee (the apprentice or trainee), in which the apprentice or trainee learns the skills needed for a particular occupation or trade.

An apprenticeship or traineeship enables you to become qualified in the industry you want to work in, while being directly employed in that industry.

As an apprentice or trainee, you can:

  • learn valuable, nationally recognised job skills
  • get paid while learning
  • combine formal training from a TAFE institute or other training provider with employment.

An apprenticeship or traineeship is the pathway to a career in one of more than 500 occupations across a wide range of industries.

An apprenticeship leads to becoming a tradesperson, such as a plumber, a carpenter, an electrician, a motor mechanic, a fitter and turner or a hairdresser. Apprenticeships can take up to four years to complete.

A traineeship leads to an occupation, such as childcare worker, business administrator, IT systems technician or retail or hospitality service employee. Traineeships are usually shorter programs of one to two years.

Are there different pathways to completing an apprenticeship or traineeship?

As a student at school you can choose a number of different ways to enter and complete an apprenticeship or traineeship. Gaining employment as an apprentice can be quite competitive so it pays to be well prepared. Completing your VCE or VCAL is a good start.

In addition, undertaking a pre-apprenticeship as part of your VCE or VCAL studies lets you test if you really like this type of work while gaining credit towards your senior secondary certificate. Completing a VCE VET program will give you a head start when applying for an apprenticeship.

You can also do a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship as part of your VCE or VCAL. You may only complete a portion of the apprenticeship or traineeship while at school but can continue in a full- or part-time capacity once you complete your school studies.

What are school-based apprenticeships and traineeships?

If you are enrolled in the VCE or VCAL, a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship offers you the opportunity to combine an apprenticeship or traineeship with your school studies.

A number of people are involved in arranging a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship, including you, your parents, an employer, your school, a TAFE institute or other RTO, and an Apprenticeship Network provider.

A school-based apprenticeship or traineeship requires a minimum of 13 hours per week, consisting of both training and employment, with at least six hours per week being during normal school time. The arrangement must be integrated with your school timetable. It contributes towards your VCE or VCAL, leads to a nationally recognised qualification and includes paid work.

If you would like further information about school based apprenticeships and traineeships, visit the Department of Education and Training (DET) website.

What is Head Start?

Head Start is a new model for apprenticeships and traineeships for school students. Head Start students spend more time doing paid on-the-job training in priority industries while completing their VCE or VCAL at school. In the first year, students spend one or two days per week in paid employment. This increases to three or four days per week in paid employment in the final year. Head Start staff based in schools work with the apprentice or trainee, employer, school, and TAFE institute or RTO to develop a tailored Head Start Pathway plan. This plan outlines how the apprentice or trainee will complete their VCE or VCAL and their apprenticeship or traineeship.

Head Start pathways are being offered in over 100 government schools across 10 cluster sites. More information about Head Start is available on the DET website.

What are pre-apprenticeships?

Completion of a pre-apprenticeship will help you prepare for the working environment in a selected industry, give you some basic skills, and pave the way for the learning you will receive as part of your apprenticeship. Pre-apprenticeship courses may be undertaken while you are still at school, as part of your VCE or VCAL studies or after you have completed school.

There are pre-apprenticeships available for a variety of trades in the following industries: automotive, building and construction, electrotechnology and communications, metals and engineering, and hairdressing. Some of these pre-apprenticeships are the same as the VCE VET programs in those industries and are designed to integrate with your school studies. If you are interested in studying a pre-apprenticeship at school, you should discuss this with your school.

More information about pre-apprenticeships is available on the Victorian Skills Gateway.

What is the difference between a pre-apprenticeship and an apprenticeship?

A pre-apprenticeship is a preparatory course and is usually a Certificate II, rather than the higher Certificate III level of an apprenticeship. Unlike apprenticeships, students undertaking a pre-apprenticeship do not have a job with an employer but may undertake SWL. When you have successfully finished a pre-apprenticeship, the Skills and Jobs Centre at your local TAFE institute may be able to help you find out more about getting an apprenticeship.

If you do find employment as an apprentice, the completion of a pre-apprenticeship may reduce the duration of your apprenticeship.

How do part-time apprenticeships and traineeships differ from school-based apprenticeships and traineeships?

Part-time apprenticeships and traineeships are not integrated into the school program. They are undertaken by school students outside school hours (like any other part-time job). As training and employment are independent of the school program, the school does not need to integrate your employment or training into the school timetable. A school-based apprenticeship requires your school to support your program, integrate employment or training into your school timetable and sign off on your training plan.

Under Skills First, you may be eligible for government-subsidised training if your course is part of a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship. Government-subsidised training is not otherwise available to school students.

More information on Skills First can be found on the Skills First section of the DET website.

What is competency-based completion?

Apprenticeships in Victoria are competency-based. This means your apprenticeship is complete once your RTO has assessed that you meet all the required competencies for the qualification and your employer confirms that you are competent in the workplace.

The length of an apprenticeship will differ for each apprentice based on their previous experience and training and how quickly they learn the skills needed for the trade. It will normally take between three and four years.

I have decided to do an apprenticeship or traineeship …

Your pathway will differ depending on the options you have taken in your school studies.

You may already have started a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship, or completed a pre-apprenticeship or other vocational course. If this is the case, you may have already completed some of the following steps.

Step one

Find out what apprenticeships and traineeships are available.

Step two

Choose an apprenticeship or traineeship in the industry that is right for you.

  • Consider undertaking a pre-apprenticeship to get a better understanding of the industry and show potential employers that you are keen.
  • Speak to your school careers counsellor, parents or guardians for guidance about the pathway you are interested in exploring.

Step three

Find an apprenticeship or traineeship.

  • Speak to your local TAFE Skills and Jobs Centre or RTO about local apprenticeship or traineeship opportunities. You can find your nearest Skills and Jobs Centre on the DET website.
  • Write to or approach employers directly.
  • Speak to your school careers counsellor for further guidance and help.
  • Visit the website of the Apprenticeship Employment Network, the peak industry body for Victorian group training organisations that employ apprentices or trainees and then place them with a host employer.
  • Visit the Australian Government Jobactive website.

Step four

Sign a training contract with an employer and start work.

  • The contract is provided by an Apprenticeship Network provider (they may also be able to help you to find employers). Contact your local Apprenticeship Network provider.
  • Establish a training plan with your employer and an RTO, and start training.