An Australian Apprenticeship–covering both apprenticeships and traineeships–are an important pathway into the job market for school leavers and mature-aged workers alike. In 2016, there were 264,900 workers in Australia employed as an apprentice or trainee, or 2.2% of the total workforce. However, 12.2% of teenage workers aged 15-19 were employed as an apprentice or trainee.

Completing an apprenticeship or traineeship involves paid on-the-job training for a skilled trade or vocational area, as well as formal study at a registered training organisation (RTO) such as TAFE or a vocational education provider. Effectively, an Australian Apprenticeship allows you to combine both work and study instead of having to choose one over the other, gaining valuable work experience whilst earning a sweet wage and eventually leading to a nationally recognised qualification. It is thus a crucial employment option for people that are seeking a qualification but aren’t too keen on studying solely at university for one reason or another. There are more than 500 occupations available through an apprenticeship or traineeship.


An apprenticeship is a training agreement between employer and apprentice, where the latter learns a skilled trade under the supervision of an experienced tradesman as well as getting a formal education from an RTO. These generally take four years to complete if done full-time, though part-time options are also available. Common apprenticeships include:

  • Construction
  • Carpentry
  • Aeroskills
  • Roof Tiling
  • Hairdressing
  • Joiner
  • Electrician
  • Plumber
  • Cooking / Baking
  • Engineering


A traineeship differs from an apprenticeship in the type of work undertaken and time it takes to complete. Instead of trades, a trainee is trained in a vocational area such as office administration, information technology, or health services. They generally take one year to complete full-time, though they can take as long as three years; part-time options are also available. As with apprenticeships, trainees receive on-the-job training from a supervisor, as well as receiving formal education at an RTO. Common traineeships include:

  • Assistant accountant
  • Retail assistant
  • Conservation worker
  • Dental assistant
  • Human resources
  • Childcare worker
  • Youth worker
  • Civil construction supervisor

School-Based Apprenticeships and Traineeships

A school-based apprenticeship or traineeship allows high school students to start an apprenticeship or complete a traineeship alongside their studies during their senior years of school. This is done part-time over two years so they can maintain their studies, though school-based apprentices are expected to continue full-time as a second-year apprentice the January following their final exams. School-based apprentices and trainees are also required to study a VET course and this generally gets credited towards both their Certificate and HSC or equivalent.


Studying a VET course doesn’t mean you’re doing an apprenticeship or traineeship, but all apprenticeships and traineeships involve completing a VET course. They range from the Certificate II level to an Advanced Diploma, though 95.8% of all apprenticeships and traineeships commenced in 2016 were at the Certificate III level.

How to get started

Those looking to start an apprenticeship or traineeship should explore different occupations and possible career paths using the Australian Apprenticeship Pathways site or app. Once you know what you want train in, you can approach businesses yourself or use employment service providers to help facilitate the job search. After an employer is found, contact an Apprenticeship Network Provider to confirm details and organise a contract. Once this is done, your journey as an apprentice or trainee will begin.