Apprenticeships and traineeships are kind of like the Cherry Ripe of the employment world, in that they’re often underrated and overlooked. This is largely due to most people having limited information about them in the first place, which doesn’t help a whole lot with post-school decision making. Everyone knows what universities are near them and that’s where you go to study a degree, but for apprenticeships it can be pretty confusing. RTOs and GTOs and a whole bunch of other letters–and what’s the deal with TAFE? We break it down for you, so you know where you can actually study an apprenticeship or traineeship.

Private apprenticeship

A private apprenticeship or traineeship is where an agreement is made directly between the apprentice and a business. The business is therefore the employer, which means they are responsible for wages, allowances, superannuation, sick/holiday leave, and all those other employment benefits and details. They provide the on-the-job training, as well as choosing where, when, and how the formal off-the-job theory training is delivered.

Private apprenticeships can be great when you already know which company you want to train you, whether it’s because of reputation, convenience, or by having a family connection. For example, if your uncle runs a building company and you want to be an apprentice builder, you can seek private employment from his business and start an apprenticeship there. You can also respond to job adverts that businesses post or approach an esteemed company and ask for an apprenticeship yourself. But you also have to be careful with private employers; it’s easier for them to take advantage of their apprentices, as they don’t have anyone watching over their shoulder like apprenticeship companies do. Make sure you do your research to ensure you’re getting paid the right wage, receiving the right training and are registered to receive your certification on completion.

Group Training

Another option is to seek an arrangement with a Group Training Organisation (GTO). These are middle-man companies that assign apprentices and trainees to host employers who provide the skills training required. However, in this situation, the GTO technically remains the employer, which means they’re in charge of paying you and making sure you receive quality training, including organising your off-the-job training with a registered training organisation (RTO).

The benefit to this approach is that GTOs are in the business of making apprenticeships work. With the host employers focusing on the actual training side of things, GTOs can focus on all the other parts that make a good employer–and they excel at it. They provide ongoing support and mentorship throughout the apprenticeship and will often assist you in gaining employment afterward. If a host employer runs out of work or money to continue the apprenticeship, GTOs will simply assign you to a new one, so you won’t have to begin your training again from the beginning. They may also assign you to multiple host employers to make sure you learn all the skills required to succeed in your field.


An RTO is a Registered Training Organisation and they are where you go to receive the formal off-the-job training part of your apprenticeship. They can be public or private colleges, TAFEs, community education centres, or even a university. The important thing is that they’re registered to provide vocational education and training (VET), and when you’re finished you’ll receive a nationally recognised qualification. For apprenticeships and traineeships, this is usually a Certificate III, but RTOs also offer Certificates I to IV, Diplomas, Advanced Diplomas, Graduate Certificates, and Graduate Diplomas. RTOs are also a great way for apprentices to build upon their knowledge and upskill from a Cert III during their apprenticeship or after their apprenticeship is complete.

Employers are responsible for choosing the RTO their apprentice will attend and developing a training plan with the apprentice. This outlines the units taken during the training, and what days and times the training will take place.


TAFE is simply a type of RTO, albeit one of the most popular and widely recognised ones due to being government-owned and operated. They have a wide range of courses available to suit most apprentices needs, whereas other RTOs are usually specialised in a particular field. Ultimately, all RTOs provide nationally recognised training and qualification, so the employer is free to choose any RTO that suits the needs of the business and apprentice.

TAFE also has courses for people who aren’t apprentices or trainees but are still interested in studying a vocational course (a.k.a a VET course). There are hundreds of different VET courses available in most industries, from short courses and Certificates right through to high education degrees. Some TAFEs actually provide an alternative degree option to university and are especially suited to people who like to learn through practical applications and a hands-on approach.