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Understanding Apprenticeship Non-completion

Jun 25, 2014

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Alice Bednarz of Australia’s National Centre for Vocational Education Research recently produced an occasional paper titled Understanding the non-completion of apprentices. Bednarz notes that about 50% of all apprenticeship contracts in the trades are not completed. She considers the issue of non-completion from multiple angles, including apprentices’ self-reported reasons for non-completion, the impact of employer characteristics, and apprentices’ and employers’ satisfaction with the training provider. Unlike GDI Aboriginal Apprenticeship Initiative that focused on Aboriginal clients, Bednarz’s study examines apprenticeship programming in general in the Australian context. Her study findings will enable us to start conversation about non-completion of apprenticeship programs. To this end, this article presents a brief overview of the research by Bednarz.

Apprentices generally leave their apprenticeship contract early on: 60% of those who leave do so within the first year and 20% within the first six months. Main reasons for apprentices not completing their training include: employment-related problems, especially trouble with the supervisor or colleagues; being made redundant; not liking the work/not being suited to the work; low wages; a lack of support; and personal reasons, such as family issues and problems with transportation.

Employment-related issues are the most commonly cited reasons for not completing an apprenticeship. By contrast, issues with the off-the-job training are the least frequently cited reasons for not completing an apprenticeship.

There is a significant difference in completers’ and non-completers’ satisfaction with their employment experience overall. Most of the completers (80%) are satisfied with the employment experience overall, compared with just 42% of non-completers. This implies that the employment experience is correlated to whether an apprentice stays or quits.

There is conflicting evidence on the importance of wages. Bednarz found that low wages are not the most common reason for non-completion, but they are nonetheless one of the top few factors. She suggests that an increase in wages alone is unlikely to solve the problem of low completion rates, since multiple factors are often to blame.

Apprentices with a passion for the trade tend to have higher completion rates than those who ‘fell into an apprenticeship’ or were ambivalent about their decision to begin one.

The best completion outcomes are achieved by employers with high training capacity, who can offer variety, mentoring support, formal and structured programs, good working conditions and generous wages.

The study found that between 75% and 80% of non-completing apprentices were employed, with 60% employed full-time and 15% part-time. However, just 7% of non-completers are employed with the same employer and / or in the same trade as their apprenticeship, compared with 50% of completers.

These findings suggest a number of ideas for future policy developments, such as encouraging more rigorous recruitment and pre-apprenticeship counselling practices; providing greater support for employers; and providing greater mentoring support for apprentices, particularly in the early stages of their apprenticeship. For more information please visit www.ncver.edu.au

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Gabriel Dumont Institue

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