Many apprentices never qualify

A $250 million Government job scheme is in line for a shake-up after a report showing that fewer than one in 10 agriculture, forestry and fishing apprentices completes training within five years.

Education Minister Anne Tolley is unhappy with the findings of a Ministry of Education report, Modern Apprentices Completion Analysis, and is seeking advice on the scheme's future. The report reveals just one-third of all modern apprentices complete their training within five years.

Agriculture, forestry and fishing apprentices were the least likely to persevere, with just 9 per cent qualified after that time.

Those in professional, scientific and technical services had the highest completion rate of 44 per cent.

"I don't think that's very good value for Government money and, more importantly, it doesn't represent a good outcome for the trainees in these courses," Tolley said.

Since its launch in 2001, the modern apprenticeships scheme has cost the country $254m and 5821 people have completed apprenticeships. Its current cost is $54m a year.

Tolley said the Government was open-minded about changing the programme and making it more relevant to young people.

The report showed the youngest apprentices were the least likely to complete training, with just a fifth of those aged 15 when they started qualified after five years.

Federated Farmers vice-president Frank Brenmuhl said many young people were being pushed into apprenticeships in agriculture when they were not equipped for the scheme.

"It requires diligence on the part of person and academic ability, and farmers are not stepping in and doing what they need to do."

Brenmuhl suspected many of those who did not complete their apprenticeships continued to work in the industry without a qualification.

"I think the whole modern apprenticeships scheme needs to be looked at.

"Too many tradespeople are concerned about lack of ability of so-called qualified people coming out now," Brenmuhl said.

"Standards have been allowed to slip, and that's a concern."

Agriculture Industry Training Organisation general manager policy and qualifications Tracey Shepherd said the organisation disputed the Government data.

Its self-assessed completion rates were 19 per cent for modern apprentices and 38 per cent for industry trainees.

"Our completion rates still aren't very good, and we are trying to address that by doing things quite differently," she said.

This included offering shorter courses and different delivery methods.

Tolley also announced this week that industry training organisations would be given more time to help trainees find jobs during the recession. If industry trainees were made redundant, they would now remain active for funding purposes for 12 weeks, double the previous six-week limit.

The modern apprenticeships programme is aimed at those aged 16 to 21 who do workplace-based training, with funding from the Tertiary Education Commission.

About 4 per cent of school leavers move into modern apprenticeships.

As of December 2008, there were 12,149 young people training in modern apprenticeships.

The Press