Apprenticeships, Traineeships and Cadetships

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a legal agreement whereby the apprentice learns how to perform the tasks involved in a trade occupation under the guidance of a highly skilled tradesperson and by successfully completing the required training to become qualified. A trade occupation refers to a highly skilled practical occupation. Carpenter, hairdresser, florist, butcher, motor mechanic, glazier, and signwriter are examples of trade jobs. Apprentices receive a wage in accordance with their level of training and experience. Apprenticeships can take up to four years to complete.


What is a traineeship?

A traineeship is a legal agreement whereby the trainee learns how to perform the tasks involved in a skilled occupation under the guidance of a skilled workers and by successfully completing the required training to become qualified. Traineeships are skilled non-trade occupations in career fields such as business and administration, retail, hospitality and sport and recreation. Trainees receive a wage in accordance with their level of training and experience. Traineeships are generally shorter than apprenticeships Traineeships are of a shorter duration than apprenticeships. The skill level of some traineeships is lower than the skill level for apprenticeships.

Many people associate apprenticeships with the trades. A trade refers to a highly skilled practical occupation. Typically it takes approximately four years to qualify for a trade.

In recent times, traineeships have adopted the apprenticeship model. The duration of traineeships are usually lower than for trade occupations.

More specifically, in its overview of the Australian apprenticeship and traineeship system, the National Council of Vocational Educational Research (NCVER) stated that contemporary Australian apprenticeships and traineeships can be defined by:

  • the existence of a regulated, employment-based training arrangement, and a registered legal training agreement (originally called an ‘indenture’, and more recently a ‘contract of training’)
  • a commitment by the employer, the employee and a registered training organisation (RTO) to an agreed training program in a specified occupation, all of which are set out in the agreement
  • an occupational training program that consists of a concurrent combination of paid employment and on-the-job training; and formal (usually off-the-job) training that leads to a recognised qualification training that is provided at an agreed level in the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) and to standards set down in the Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF) (NCVER, 2011, p. 9).

Who Can Get An Apprenticeship or Traineeship?

Over the years Australian apprenticeships have become very flexible. In the past Australian apprenticeships could only be commenced after finishing compulsory secondary education and mostly school leavers were employed as apprentices. Today Australian apprenticeships can be commenced:

  • After the completion of compulsory secondary education or after Year 11 or Year 12. Employers vary in their preferences regarding preferred level of school education for first year apprentices. A small number of employers will put on apprentices with a Year 10 education. However, many employers prefer their first year apprentices to have a Year 12 or at least Year 11 education.
  • At school
    • Some employers are willing to offer school-based apprenticeships. School-based apprenticeships involve the student doing paid work with the employer and working towards a nationally accredited qualification as well as completing Year 10, 11 or 12 studies at school. To make this happen, the student typically attends work instead of school for one or two days a week. Additional work hours may be required on school holidays or weekends. It is up to the student to catch up on missed school work.
    • Many students who have a part-time job after school, on weekends and in school holidays may be offered a school-based apprenticeship by their employer, leading to a qualification such as Certificate II in Retail. All paid work and training for these school-based apprenticeships is done outside of school hours.
  • When you are an adult. The wage for a beginning apprentice is low and adults with family and other commitments may have difficulty surviving on this income. Currently, there are Government initiatives to support people over 25 years of age who wish to commence an apprenticeship.

Apprenticeship and Traineeship Websites

There are some outstanding websites that can answer most of your questions about apprenticeships. Some of these are:

Australian Apprenticeship Pathways is intended for several user groups. The student section contains job and training descriptions for Apprenticeships and Traineeships and information about Australian School-based Apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships. The Work Type links Apprenticeships and traineeships to career interest strengths and work type preferences. Jobs pathway charts show the range of qualifications and related training available in each industry.

Australian Apprenticeships

Apprenticeship Support Australia . Link to this site to get information on apprenticeships, school-based apprenticeships, qualifications available in different states and territories, the opportunity to connect with a Career Counsellor about an apprenticeship, support to find out what type of an apprenticeship will suit you, tips on apprenticeship wages, information about mentoring through your apprenticeship and more.

What is a Cadetship?

Cadetships are similar to apprenticeships and traineeships in that they involve earning and learning. Cadetships involve a partnership between the employer, you as the employee and an education and training provider. As a result of this partnership, you complete your formal studies while being employed and gaining professional experience. Your program of study is tailored to meet both your work requirements and the requirements of your course. A cadetship provides a pathway to permanent employment when the cadetship is finished. Cadets are usually commencing students or currently enrolled in a course that is relevant to the job role.

Cadetships are available in a wide range of industries, but are often found in:

  • Public sector employment in Government departments - federal, state/territory and local government
  • Business
  • Finance
  • Accounting
  • Engineering
  • Journalism
  • Transport - airlines and shipping
  • Construction and Infrastructure

Some places where cadetships are advertised include Government jobs websites, job boards such as Seek, Indeed, Careerone and Graduate Opportunities and GradConenction.