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From Our Friends Over In Australia: Trade Apprentices ‘Will Help Our Post-COVID-19 Recovery & We Need To Do More To Keep Them In Work’

Published Sunday, April 26, 2020
by Peter Hurley, Policy Fellow/Mitchell Institute, Victoria University Via
From Our Friends Over In Australia: Trade Apprentices ‘Will Help Our Post-COVID-19 Recovery & We Need To Do More To Keep Them In Work’

The Australian Government needs to urgently act to protect Australia’s 180,000 Trade Apprentices from the economic effects of the Coronavirus.

Advertised vacancies for new Apprentices have collapsed due to COVID-19 – from 1,731 vacancies in January to 880 in March 2020.

If the trend continues over the next year it will lead to a loss of 35,000 new Apprenticeship jobs.

But the reduction may be much larger, given the uncertain economic environment ahead.

The low number of new Apprenticeship vacancies doesn’t show the full extent of the problem.

There are currently another 180,000 enrolled Apprentices, many of whom may have already lost their jobs or been stood down.

Australia must ensure we do not lose the workforce we will need as part of any recovery effort after the Coronavirus restrictions end.

While official data on the early impact of the Coronavirus on Apprenticeship numbers won’t be available for another six months, the size of the challenge can be estimated by looking at Apprenticeship figures during the previous few years.

Data shows the industries with high numbers of Apprentices include construction, automotive, electro-technology, hospitality and beauty services.

Many of these industries are already hard hit by the Coronavirus outbreak, particularly hospitality.

While some industries may remain open, such as construction, any downturn will likely impact Apprentices. 

Evidence shows Apprenticeship numbers are sensitive to changes in the employment market.

Increases in unemployment result in a decrease in Apprentice numbers, as well as employers taking on fewer new Apprentices.

This means even in industries that remain open, higher unemployment will likely have big impacts on Apprenticeship numbers.

Research has shown changes in the number of new Apprentices take between six months and a year and a half to flow through into total Apprentice numbers.

Apprenticeships are usually three to four years in length.

Economic downturns affect the pipeline of Apprentices moving through the system.

The result is that a decline in people starting Apprenticeships can be felt for many years to come.

This means Australia risks a generation of lost Apprenticeships as young people lose connections with their employers and cannot complete their training.

It also threatens any recovery effort by removing skilled Workers from industries trying to rebuild after the pandemic.

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