The call for action has come from Australia's leading business organisations, The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry; The Australian Industry Group; and the Business Council of Australia.
The organisations are urging the Commonwealth Government to recommit to full funding of a new National Partnership Agreement focused on apprenticeships, enabling all governments to work together to deliver a national apprenticeship system that meets the needs of industry, young people, and workers wanting to change industries.
To turn around the ailing system, we need to make it easier for employers to hire apprentices and for aspiring apprentices to get new opportunities.
James Pearson, CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: "A partnership agreement is the best way to get governments working together on a common agenda for apprenticeships. The Federal Government should maintain the funding in the current partnership agreement - $1.75 billion over five years - and create a genuine national system for apprenticeships."
The number of Australians undertaking apprenticeships is falling. In June 2016 there were 282,900 apprentices and trainees in training, down 45 per cent on the 515,000 in June 2012. Apprentices and trainees represent just 2.7 per cent of the total workforce, the lowest in a decade.
Jennifer Westacott, CEO of the Business Council of Australia, said: "Since 2012 there has been a 45 per cent drop in the number of apprentices in training. This represents a system on the tipping point of crisis and the stark numbers of apprentices falling away from the system make it clear that we need to improve its performance. To achieve this, governments should use the National Partnership funding to reinvigorate and modernise the system."
Apprenticeships allow people to learn work skills on the job, and uniquely gives them the chance to earn while they learn.
Innes Willox, CEO of the Australian Industry Group, said: "We want our apprenticeships system to be ready for new and emerging industries and jobs. It's important that the system works well in serving current labour market demands, in order for it to be flexible in meeting the demands of new industries and to be able to provide for high-level apprenticeships."
We call on governments to reach a new National Partnership Agreement that has three main objectives in the administration of apprenticeships:
- Create a genuine national system.
- Increase the number of Australians starting an apprenticeship and moving into work.
- Remove duplication between governments and better align their programs, services and funding.
To achieve these objectives we need a national governance structure and approach to funding as well as more effective regulation, information and support, data and pathways to apprenticeships.
Once the policy settings are right we believe apprenticeships will once again provide skilled job opportunities for many people, particularly young people.
For the sake of our future, we must do better.