Release type: Speech


De-mystifying school-based apprenticeships - Launch of the School-based Apprenticeships/Traineeships (SBATs): A Resource for Schools



It’s a pleasure to join you for the launch of this excellent resource which will help pave the way for students who are considering a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship.

Congratulations to the Association of Independent Schools SA and Catholic Education SA for developing this resource.

I’m confident that it will help de-mystify school-based apprenticeships and be of direct value to students and teachers – as well parents who want to participate in choices about their child’s education and post-school pathways.

I particularly like the comprehensive coverage of topics in this document and the clear explanations, which will make it much easier for students and schools to navigate what is often a very confusing process, complicated by the multiple stakeholders who are involved.

I’m here today in my capacity as Assistant Minister for Education with particular responsibility for vocational education and training in schools (otherwise referred to as VET in Schools or VETiS).

Value of school based apprenticeship or traineeship

I think people too often overlook the value of school based apprenticeships as a direct pathway from school to employment.

So it is fantastic to have just heard directly from a former school based apprentice.  Congratulations Sarah on making the absolute most of your school-based experience as a pathway to the career you’re enjoying now.

You are a fantastic role model for other young people considering an SBAT and I encourage you to continue promoting the vocational pathway.

Australia would be a very different place without the highly skilled workers who obtained their qualifications through vocational education.

These skills have contributed to our infrastructure, the technology we use every day, our health, our quality of life, and our overall wellbeing.

We need to recognise these benefits on a national scale, and end the idea that young people who are not studying at university are somehow part of the ‘B Team’.

I look forward to the day when VET is more widely valued and when more parents choose a school because of its great VET programmes. VET must be as highly prized and as highly regarded as any other further education qualification.

So I have taken on the task of ensuring that everything I do as Assistant Minister for Education helps elevate the status of VETiS.

But everyone here today has a role to play in raising the profile and understanding of vocational education – whether it be among students, parents, or the broader community.  Together we need to ensure that the pathway to VET becomes as clear as the pathway to university.

And you’ve certainly made a significant step today with the launch of your SBAT resource.

Pathways to employment

The reality is that not every school leaver wants to go to university – and not every job requires a university degree.

While we have recently seen a dramatic increase in the number of young people staying in school until they are 17, only 40 per cent of school leavers in 2012 went on to study at university in 2013.

Clearly, the 60 per cent of students who don’t go straight to university need to be supported to make informed choices about their future and a smooth transition from school to work, or from school to further education and training.

And as we’ve seen in a recent Graduate Careers Australia report,  a university pathway does not guarantee a job.  Nearly 30 per cent of 2013 graduates had not found work within four months of completing their course – this is the highest level since 1993.

I was interested to note that the Research Manager for Graduate Careers Australia who conducted the research (Bruce Guthrie) was quoted as saying that students may - in the future - “opt for potentially cheaper and more job-focused vocational qualifications.”

We need students to be clear and confident on how to follow a pathway to further study, whether it is vocational education or university.

VETiS Statistics

The latest data from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research indicate that there were more than 250 000 VETiS students in Australia in 2012 and about 23 000 of those were school-based apprentices.

This means around 16 per cent of Australia’s 15–to–19 year olds were enrolled in a VETiS course, with that number dropping to just 1.5 per cent for school-based apprenticeships.

These numbers for school-based apprentices are increasingly concerning, especially when we consider the benefits on offer for young people such as Sarah.

Here in South Australia, there were nearly 900 students undertaking a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship in 2012, which represents 3.9 per cent of all school-based apprentices across Australia.

The take-home message is that we need more students to be thinking about a school-based apprenticeship.

And to achieve that we need to raise awareness and have proper support systems in place so that they can make wise decisions about their future.

VETiS roundtables

One of the ways I am working to boost awareness about vocational education and training in schools is through the series of roundtable meetings I’ve convened around Australia.

These roundtables are also part of a deliberate effort to increase collaboration amongst the different stakeholders involved in what I call the three pillars of VETiS - schools, industry and training.

The opportunity to bring these three stakeholder groups around the table together is invaluable – VETiS must be responsive to industry needs in order to ensure that students are being equipped with the skills that will result in real jobs in the real economy.

Here in South Australia, we discussed a variety of issues and ideas for ways that schools and industry can work together to deliver VETiS.

This included discussion about the need to help young people move from a classroom mindset to a workplace mindset, when undertaking work placements or school based apprenticeships.

The overwhelming feedback we receive from employers is that work placements are integral to the success of VETiS and they value workplace experience more than than the qualification itself.

At a number of the roundtables, I’ve heard that signing students up for a school based apprenticeship involves multiple stakeholders and can be very confusing.

Here in Adelaide, we also discussed how industry must take some responsibility for engaging with schools and providing real and meaningful opportunities for students, including school based apprenticeships and taster or ‘try-a-trade’ opportunities.

At each of our roundtables we’ve been sure to include former students because it is always important to hear their perspectives and learn from their experiences; which is exactly what you’ve done here today.

In a number of cases, that student has told us that they secured their own apprenticeship - they sought out the employer, prepared for the interview and really fought for something they dearly wanted.  Their passion and determination pushed them on.  But not every student is able to do so, and there are many who miss out, which makes the resource you’re launching today so valuable.

National framework

To drive national progress, I’ve identified the need for a refreshed national framework to support the VET in Schools system, and I am pleased Education Ministers around Australia have agreed to work on this with me.

We’ve established a Working Group including representatives from each state and territory government, industry and training.  The non-government schools sector is well represented through Bob Knight (Executive Officer, Education Queensland Catholic Education Commission) and Barrie Wallett (Deputy Executive Director, Independent Schools Council of Australia, ISCA).

A key focus of the working group is to improve the preparation for participation in VET in Schools – through career advice and work exploration.

Along with my State and Territory counterparts, I received a progress report from the Working Group last Friday.  Their work is progressing well and we look forward to receiving the updated VETiS framework for endorsement in December.

I look forward to implementing the national, ambitious and contemporary framework that clarifies and strengthens the pathway to a student’s vocation of choice.


In closing, let me encourage you all to maintain the momentum and continue your excellent work to de-mystify school based apprenticeships and traineeships.

This resource will make a positive and practical difference for students and parents considering a VET in schools pathway for their children, and it is my great pleasure to be here today to support the excellent work you have undertaken.