The skills minister Michaelia Cash is under pressure to speed up reform of the training sector after new data showed traineeships and apprenticeships continue to fall sharply.
In the year ended December, the number of people starting traineeships or apprenticeships fell by 3.7 per cent to less than 157,000. The number of people completing a training course or apprenticeship fell by 5.5 per cent for the year and is down by a massive 43.5 per cent compared to five years ago.
“If you’ve ever known anyone trying to find an apprenticeship, you know it’s very hard for anyone to land a contract with an employer.” Martin Riordan, former TAFE Directors Australia CEO. Michele Mossop
Industry experts said the number of people pulling out of training has overtaken the number who are starting, which shows a deep structural issue with the sector.
The director of training at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Jenny Lambert, said there was an urgent need for the minister to focus on action that would make a difference.
“These latest apprenticeship stats show that action taken to date has not been sufficient to address the decline. Clearly the arrangements between governments through the Skilling Australians Fund are not working,” Ms Lambert said.
“This has to start with getting all governments on the same page about the future of vocational education and apprenticeships.”
Victoria and Queensland refused to sign on to the Skilling Australians Fund, which promised to inject $1.2 billion into training.
Senior fellow at the LH Martin Institute at Melbourne University and the former chief executive of TAFE Directors Australia, Martin Riordan, said the collapse in enrolments pointed to a “significant waste” in public money, coming on top of the $3 billion VET Fee Help scandal of 2016.
He said the recent Joyce review of the sector had revealed worrying consequences from falling enrolments. More than 50 per cent of employers relied on unaccredited training to meet their needs or were turning to skilled migration for a solution.
“It’s time business and unions looked at their past opposition to change when the alternative looks like a win for skilled migration,” Mr Riordan said.
“If you’ve ever known anyone trying to find an apprenticeship, you know it’s very hard for anyone to land a contract with an employer.
“Everyone has a go at the universities for high drop out rates, but as a system training is now pretty critical.”
The biggest falls in training commencements were in engineering and communications technology, which have dropped 46.1 per cent in the past five years followed by food industry workers, down more than 43 per cent.
Steven Joyce said training should be managed nationally by a new skills commission and employers should be more involved in decision making about courses.