We need to future proof our industry

Lesley Yates, AAAA Director of Government Relations and Advocacy

There is no questioning that the current apprentice system in Australia is broken.
In the automotive service and repair sector we have extremely high first-year dropout rates for apprentices, and it is clear the current incentive structure is not benefiting businesses, training providers, nor the apprentices and their families.
The Australian Federal Government recognises the existing system is struggling and is currently undertaking a Strategic Review of the Australian Apprentice Incentive System.
As a part of this review, the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations is calling out for assistance to create new pathways forward. This presents a huge opportunity for AAAA members to let the Government know what is and isn’t working.
It is extremely important that AAAA members respond to this opportunity – the Government is asking for our input and we need to have this conversation now; we cannot simply sit back and let others control our fate. Change will only occur through the action of the industry, and AAAA members in particular.
Our apprentices are vital for the future of our industry, and we have always supported the Government’s short-term fixes to the skills shortage problem, including supplementing the workforce with skilled migration – however, these changes have often been a temporary Band-Aid fix.
It is also important to note that skilled migration is a pathway that can enhance our industry, but it can’t be our only option for increasing the labour pipeline. The migration process can work well, but it can also be expensive and subject to changes in political sentiment which we believe is low at the moment.
True future-proofing of our industry requires strong apprenticeship enrolment and completion rates now, so we have a robust competitive local workforce well into the future.
The aforementioned review is a real opportunity to examine why apprentices are dropping out in their early years, and what can be done to keep them in the industry.
AAAA is grateful to be involved in these discussions, to be working with several government reviews and we are pleased to hear that the Government is heavily committed to addressing the current skills shortages.
The AAAA’s recent Addressing Automotive Skills Shortage Report found that 69 percent of apprentices see living costs as a major challenge when undertaking their apprenticeship with a further 22 percent citing commuting to work and training providers also being a major challenge.
This is one area where we are hopeful this review will look at incentives to ease this burden on apprentices, and there are sure to be many other areas where we can suggest new ways forward as well.
The apprenticeship system should be modernised and capable of embracing a diverse workforce – including mature entrants and we would all like to see more women entering our trades.
We need a contemporary flexible system that supports apprentices throughout their journey, and we need to adopt a new standard in which we expect the majority of our new starters to complete their studies and commence a career in our industry.
The Department will be releasing a discussion paper shortly to formally ask for input from the industry. AAAA will be making a submission to this review, and we want to hear from members who have had experiences with the apprenticeship system recently.
We want to hear from you about what could be improved, and we also want to hear about what went well to see if that can be further scaled.
This is a problem all of industry will face, and even if you are not impacted now, it does not mean it won’t become a problem for you in the future.
And yes, it would be easier to simply throw our hands in the air and say this system is broken, but the reality is that if we don’t recommend changes when the Government has actually asked what we want, we will be left with a system that meets our low expectations.
We have good solid research on 600 of our auto apprentices and we are well prepared to embrace the opportunity to collaborate on a new way forward.

I hope you will join with us in responding to this call from the Government – if you have any personal case studies we can use, we ask that you please email to share your experience.