Apprenticeships Explained


What exactly is an Apprenticeship?


Apprenticeships are a system that allows you to gain nationally recognised qualifications and hands-on work experience at the same time, with another added benefit that you’ll get paid for the work that you do too.

You carry out the study part of your job through TAFE or another approved Registered Training Organisation (RTO). They’ll provide you with learning materials and support, schedule your assignments and any test or exams.

For the working element, you’ll be working a for an employer within your chosen industry. They’ll have to sign up through a contract and agree to all the terms and conditions such as agreed amount of pay, time off for studies, etc. Depending on your employer and the agreement you sign they could also cover the cost of the qualification, your uniform and any other training costs.

There are full-time and part-time apprenticeships available, and you can even do school-based apprenticeships if you’re certain that this is the right pathway for you.


What’s the difference between an apprenticeship and a traineeship?


Apprenticeships and traineeships are very similar in structure; you’ll be learning, working and earning in both.

Apprenticeships take three or four years to complete. The training is often very structured as you’ll be learning some very specific skills.

With an Apprenticeship your wages and conditions are dependent upon standard, legal, industry awards. That simply means that it is highly regulated and fair across the board. Your wages will increase with each year of your qualification that you successfully complete.

The qualification you’ll need to complete is usually a Certificate III level.

Apprenticeships can also offer a little bit more security: if your current employer sells their business with an Apprenticeship agreement in place, the new employer must honour the training agreement (which isn’t the case with traineeships).

Traineeships are still a formal training agreement between you and your employer, and you’ll both have to agree to the terms of the contract. You can often find traineeships that could be completed within a year or two.

Wages for trainees are standardised across all industries by the National Training Wage award, so most trainees receive similar wages regardless of which industry you choose to work in.

Qualifications for trainees can vary from a Certificate II up to Diploma level.


What sort of role can you train for with an apprenticeship?


Apprenticeships (and traineeships) are already established across 50 industries in Australia, and there are lots of roles within those industries to consider.

You could potentially train in any industry you wanted – all you would need to do is approach an existing employer working in the industry of your choosing and get them to sign up to an Apprenticeship agreement.

Top tip: There are incentives available for employers who sign up, so you can let them know the benefits if you think they need a little persuading.


The Top 20 Apprenticeships in NSW for example are:
  1.  Electrotechnology – Electrician
  2.  Carpentry
  3.  Plumbing
  4.  Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology (Automotive Technician)
  5.  Commercial Cookery
  6.  Engineering (Fabrication Trade)
  7.  Hairdressing
  8.  Air Conditioning and Refrigeration
  9.  Heavy Commercial Vehicle Mechanical Technology (Automotive Technician)
  10. Mechanical Trade
  11. Furnishing – Cabinet Making
  12. Landscape Construction
  13. Carpentry and Joinery
  14. Bricklaying / Blocklaying
  15. Painting and Decorating
  16. Mobile Plant Technology (Motor Mechanic)
  17. Roof Plumbing
  18. Telecommunications Technology
  19. Electronics and Communications
  20. Automotive Body Repair Technology


Whether you’d like to work in trades, community services, health, hospitality or tourism, communications or IT, financial services, horticulture, or government; the chances are you’ll be able to find and Apprenticeship or Traineeship to suit you.


When you can start an apprenticeship?


You could start an apprenticeship or traineeship as young as 13 years old in most industries. There some exceptions and in Queensland more restrictions apply.

If you’re under 18, you’ll need your parent, carer or guardian to be on board and sign the consent forms.

Most Australian Apprenticeships are open to everyone of working age there aren’t usually any prerequisites to entry. You could start an Apprenticeship while you’re still at high school, as a school-leaver, or if you decide to have a career change later in life.


How to find an apprenticeship


There are lots of ways to go about finding an Apprenticeship or Traineeship. You could:

  • Contact businesses directly and ask if they have any apprenticeships open
  • Check the “positions available” pages on employers websites
  • Search online (you could start on our Apprenticeships and Traineeships page where we post vacancies frequently)
  • Follow organisations that you’re interested in working for on social media (make sure your own platforms make you look good to prospective employers too)
  • Sign up for newsletters from industries and employers
  • Volunteer with organisations and impress them with your enthusiasm and commitment
  • Sign up with Group Training Organisations (GTOs)
  • Tap into your networks – speak with family friends or your friends parents about opportunities that you would be interested in
  • Make an appointment and approach employers in person


The Legalities


Before you sign up for an Apprenticeship or Traineeship, you’ll need to make sure you know what your rights and responsibilities are, and what your employer’s responsibilities are too.

You can read about the basics here.


For more information


The Study Work Grow updated Apprenticeships and Traineeships guide for 2020 is out now. It provides detailed information about the steps you’ll need to take to sign up, what you’ll need to consider, and more.

You can also get more information on these websites:

Apprenticeship Network providers

Group Training

Department of Training

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