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What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a formal training program where you will combine study, usually at TAFE, while actually working in your chosen field – so you can earn as you learn, and get real world training. 

An apprenticeship is usually three to four years, and you’ll graduate as a qualified tradesperson.

Common apprenticeships include: 

  • Carpentry or building 
  • Hairdressing 
  • Mechanics 
  • Cooking  

An apprenticeship can be full-time, part-time or school-based. You are required to find your own apprenticeship, and once you do, you and your employer must register the apprenticeship with Training Services NSW. 

Check out more info on apprenticeships here. The NSW Government has also put together a handy guide on starting an apprenticeship here. 

Types of apprenticeships

There are two types of apprenticeships available in NSW: 

School-based Part Time Apprenticeship 

A school-based apprenticeship is when you work part time and do your apprenticeship training while still in school. This training can be counted as part of your HSC and ATAR score. If you complete both the formal and the on-the-job training whilst still at school, you will be able to be a full-time 2nd or 3rd year apprentice after you finish your HSC. You would need to complete between 100 and 180 days training each year, depending on your industry. Students in grade 10,11 and 12 can do a school based apprenticeship.

For more information, please visit here. 

Australian Apprenticeship 

An Australian Apprenticeship is for both school leavers and senior high school students. Australian apprentices must go through the Australian Apprenticeship Centre to commence the apprenticeship process – from here, you will be directed to contact an Australian Apprenticeship Support Network (AASN) to organise your apprenticeship.   

The apprenticeship can be undertaken on a full time or part time basis and a minimum of 15 hours of combined work and training must be completed each week. It has basically the same features as the regular school-based apprenticeship program, only organised at a national rather than state level. 

You can find more information here.  

How old do I have to be to start an apprenticeship?

To begin an apprenticeship, you must at least have completed year 10 or be 17 years old, whichever happens first.

You can even start an apprenticeship even while you are still at school. This means you can do years 10, 11 and 12 while doing your apprenticeship part time.

For some occupations, a minimum age is required due to the risk to health, safety or morals for minors for this special kind of work. For example, you need to be 16 to work with dangerous equipment and 18 to work in areas that serve alcohol. 

Training agreements

When you start an apprenticeship, you and your employer need to sign a training contract which sets out all the details of your apprenticeship, roles and responsibilities. 

  • If you are an Australian Apprentice, you must enter a training contract with your employer. In NSW, these contracts are registered with Training Services NSW. The  Australian Apprenticeship Centre, is the first organisation you should contact if you want to do an apprenticeship.  

The NSW Department of Education has put together a handy timeline for starting your apprenticeship, including the registration process, which can be found here. 

  • A school-based apprentice must undertake their program either through TAFE NSW, another ‘Registered Training Organisation’ (RTO), or sometimes even their school will be registered to offer an apprenticeship. You must sign a contract with your new employer, which must be registered with Training Services NSW 

TAFE NSW has put together a guide on school based apprenticeships which can be found here 

Attending TAFE

Most apprentices in NSW are undertaken through TAFE NSW, although some can be done through other Registered Training Organisations (RTOs). This means the study or coursework part is done through TAFE, and you do the on the job training with your employer. Before you enrol, you need to have already found an employer willing to take you on as an apprentice, who must provide a letter of support to TAFE.

Most apprenticeships involve attending TAFE one day a week, and working the remaining 4 days, however this will vary if you’re completing your apprenticeship part time.

For more information on what courses you can do at TAFE as part of apprenticeship, visit ‘I am interested in an Apprenticeship or Traineeship’ from TAFE NSW. 

How much should I be paid?

If you are an apprentice, your employer must pay you for all your time spent working for your employer, and for all your time spent at trade school, e.g., TAFE, which is usually one day a week. This means that for full time apprenticeships, you will be paid for full time work (e.g., 5 days a week), at apprentice rates. 

The rate you get will depend on what industry you work in, as well as whether your employment is covered by a modern award, or an enterprise agreement 

Depending on your Award or Enterprise Agreement, there may be other allowances that you are entitled to receive, including payments for books and other training materials.  

I’m an apprentice and someone is bullying or discriminating against me at work. What can I do?

Just because you’re an apprentice, it doesn’t mean your boss or work mates can treat you badly.  Employers have a legal duty to ensure the safety of all workers.  This includes protecting workers from bullying, harassment (including sexual harassment), and discrimination. 

As an apprentice, you have the same legal protections as any other employee. If you are being bullied or discriminated against at work, please check out our pages on Workplace bullying and harassment, and Discrimination in the workplace for more information.  

Apprenticeships Support Australia has put together a free guide on bullying in the workplace for apprentices, called Heads Up 

You can also contact us here if something is going on and you would like advice on your options.  

How to make a complaint or enquiry

Sometimes things might go wrong with your apprenticeship, for example: 

  • Your training provider is providing poor quality education 
  • Your boss isn’t giving you time off to go to TAFE 
  • You’re not being paid properly; or 
  • You’re being bullied at work. 

The NSW Department of Education has set out the options for dealing with problems in your apprenticeship here 

For help, you can contact: 

Your union 

If you are a member of a union, you can talk to your representative or a union official about what’s going on. They will be able to tell you how they can help, and guide you through the process. Click here if you are unsure which union you can join.

National Training Complaints Hotline

The Australian Government has established the National Training Complaints Hotline, which is a portal to make your complaint. The Hotline can refer your complaint to the most appropriate authority to have your complaint considered. You can make your complaint at National Training Complaints Hotline.

Australian Skills Quality Authority

You can contact the Australian Skills Quality Authority if you are having problems with your vocational training. They are responsible for putting together the courses and training courses that you undertake. 

To make a complaint, you will need to fill out a complaint form about an RTO. You can do that by calling them on 1300 701 801 or emailing them at [email protected]. You can also visit their website here here.

Australian Apprenticeship Centres  

Australian Apprenticeship Centres in each State and Territory can provide further information on Australian Apprenticeships. You can call them on 13 38 73 or visit their website here

Fair Work Ombudsman

You can contact the FWO for assistance with information about apprenticeships and help with workplace entitlements for all states and territories, by phoning 13 13 94 or visiting FWO – help for apprentices and trainees.

Training Services NSW 

Training Services NSW can provide advice and assistance to apprentices. You can call them on (02) 9338 6600 or visit their website here. You can also fill out their online enquiry form here

If you’re under 25 and have  a question about your apprenticeship, please contact us here for free information and advice.


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