CANBERRA REPORT: Apprenticeships vital for a strong economy

How do we expect to maintain a strong economy and give our kids every opportunity if we allow the progressive disappearance of apprenticeships? The latest yearly figures from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) show once again that apprentice numbers have fallen over the last three years. 

There are now only 265,000 apprentices in training, compared to 413,400 in September 2013.  Further, there was a 4.5 per cent decline in the number of apprentices and trainees in training at December 31, 2016 compared to December 31, 2015. 

Overall commencements have continued the downward spiral since the government came into office, with a further decrease of 2.6 percent. Trade commencements are down 12.4 percent as at December 2016 compared with the previous year.

Just as alarming, apprenticeship completions decreased by 16.1 percent over the same period. Trade completions decreased by 13.6 percent and non-trade completions decreased by 18.0 percent.

For the first time in a decade, the training rate for trades apprentices and trainees has fallen below 10 per cent. Fewer than 10 per cent of trade workers are now apprentices. The training rate – the percentage of workers employed as an apprentice or trainee - is also down again, from 2.3 to 2.2 percent.

Not every child leaving school is a candidate for university.  Yet in an ever increasingly complex world, we need every student to make the transition to further training.  And who is going to fix our cars, build our homes and repair our pipes?

Whatever the cause of the decline in apprenticeship numbers, the problem must be addressed and there is certainly a role for government.  It should be a top priority.


A reminder that eligible community organisations within the Hunter electorate can apply for grants between $2,500 and $20,000 for small capital works projects through the Stronger Communities Program.

If your community group has a project in need of funding, submit an expression of interest before close of business this Friday.

Examples of previous successful projects include the construction and fit-out of men’s sheds, upgrades of sporting facilities and the purchase of equipment for local SES. For the full details and to apply, visit

Joel Fitzgibbon is the Federal MP for Hunter