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Apprenticeships for the 21st Century Report

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Updated: Sep 9th, 2019


The selected reports address the need to reform the Australian Apprenticeship system to give participants the right skills that will impact the Australian labor market positively. The report of the Panel chaired by Mr. Jim McDowell titled A Shared Responsibility – Apprenticeships for the 21st Century mentions that there is need to come up with a system that is more efficient and capable of producing a large number of highly trained, skillful and highly inspired workers (McDowell et al 2011).

Other reports echo on this sentiment, for example, the report by Amy Simons titled Report savages apprenticeship system blames the current system for causing young Australians to relinquish their occupations (Simmons 2011).

The reports stress the need to simplify and streamline the system to impart skills that are crucial to the growth of the Australian economy (Evans 2011), similar calls are made by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) (ACTU 2011). The Housing Industry of Australia (HIA) contends that plans to reform the system are welcome, but the industry must be involved in coming up with a better system that ensures apprentices get employment opportunities (HIA 2011).

The final report by the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) commends the report by McDowell et al and says that it presents ‘the opportunity for real reform of the apprenticeship system after many years of tinkering’ (Ai Group 2011).

Points or Arguments

The reports agree on one issue: the Australian Apprenticeship system needs urgent reforms, and the recommendations by the government-appointed panel chaired by Mr. McDowell are vital towards achieving the reforms. The reports cite several weaknesses in the current program as a justification for the reforms, majorly, the low completion rates.

Simmons mentions that more than half of those enrolled in apprenticeship programs drop out of the system. This anomaly is due to the low pay rates. Senator Evans mentions that since 42 percent of those enrolling in apprenticeship programs are aged 25 and above, there is need for a new system that recognizes previous experience or skills, this will motivate more persons to enroll in the program (Evans 2011).

Quoting one of the recommendations by the panel, HIA reports that reforms will address the issue of high dropout rates and the will make the system simpler. The reforms will reduce Australia’s over-reliance on imported labor and meet demands of Australian labor market (ACTU 2011). A weakness of the current system is that it contains many difficulties and inconsistencies, and hence the reforms are vital towards overcoming the obscurities (Ai Group 2011).

While the Australian Apprenticeship system continuously provides skilled labor to the market, there is a need for urgent reforms that will lead to the production of a skilled and flexible labor force that has the ability to meet the challenges of the Australian economy in competing with other global economies (McDowell et al 2011). Besides, the new system will meet the changing skill requirements as well as the ambitions and anticipations of the participants.

Factors that might Influence the Perspective of the various Stakeholders

The assertion that the Australian Apprenticeship system requires urgent reforms is a genuine. However, to win the vote of the various stakeholders in effecting the reforms, the following points must be said of the current system:

  • There have been high dropout rates among persons who enroll in apprenticeship program under the current system. The low completion rates are caused by low wages, a lack of motivation among the participants, and receiving education that is obsolete, especially with the constantly changing labor market requirements. In some jobs, an apprentice receives less that $200 a week, this discourages other individuals from taking up apprentice programs.
  • Globalization has increased the movement of labor across the world, the situation is no different in Australia. The current system does not impart knowledge required by the economy, hence it has had to import skilled labor. If this situation persists, the more than 400,000 students enrolled in the Vocational Education and Training (VET), or nearly 4% of the workforce, may lack employment.
  • The youth form the largest proportion of our economy, yet, this is the group that suffers most from unemployment. In the future, social ills and poverty may begin to crop into our society if the current situation is not rectified. This is a wake up call and the first step towards averting the future disaster is to reform the apprenticeship system to avail jobs.


Australian Council of Trade Unions. (2011). Apprenticeship reforms are long overdue and must be acted on to provide a skilled labour force. Web.

Australian Industry Group. (2011), Apprenticeship report an opportunity for real reform. Web.

Evans, C. (2011). Reforming the Australian Apprenticeship system. Web.

Housing Industry of Australia (2011), National Apprenticeship Reform Needs Industry Input. Web.

McDowell, J., et al. (2011). A Shared Responsibility – Apprenticeships for the 21st Century. Web.

Simmons, A. (2011). . ABC News, 2011. Web.

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