Wednesday, 9 July 2020.


Timothy Burt: Business NSW Policy Manager, Workforce Skills  

  • New Business NSW Skilling Australia report finds impact of COVID-19 on skills training worse than expected; reforms more urgent
  • Apprenticeship commencements across Australia this year forecast to fall by around 36 per cent (54,000 people) compared to 2019 

Business NSW has recently assessed the impact of COVID-19 on apprentice and trainee numbers. In our report, Skilling Australia for a better future: Supporting apprenticeships through COVID-19, we found that these impacts have been significant and risk leaving a lasting effect on business viability and future jobs.

Our research reported in the Sydney Morning Herald 9 July predicts that, without additional intervention beyond 30 September 2020, the number of apprenticeship commencements across Australia this year will fall by around 36 per cent compared to 2019. This equates to only 97,000 apprentice commencements in 2020, down from 151,000 in the previous year

This equates to only 97,000 commencements... down from 151,000 the previous year.

Our findings also indicate that the Supporting Apprentices and Trainees (SAT) and JobKeeper programs have been crucial in stemming the number of cancellations and suspensions of apprentices already in-training. However, more than 30 per cent of apprentices have still been negatively affected by the pandemic, with Year 1 and Year 2 apprentices bearing the brunt.  

Reduced commencements combined with a potential cancellation rate of around 20 per cent after 30 September, will be catastrophic for the availability of skills in the future.

Without significant intervention, only around 180,000 apprentices will be in training in 2021, reducing Australia’s skilled workforce pipeline to levels not seen since 1998.

With the number of apprentices not recovering to pre-COVID levels until 2025 at the earliest, businesses will be left facing a significant shortfall in the availability of skilled workers at a time when the economy is likely to rebound.

Given the predicted scale of the impact, it is our view that the Government act now to make any inroads into turning the trend around.

We recommend that a subsidy payment be introduced for new apprentices, and that the highly-effective Supporting Apprentices and Trainees subsidy continue past its 30 September expiry date, phased out over the next year.

Young people also need access to an industry-supported pre-apprenticeship program to help them prepare for the workforce. Ongoing support for Group Training Organisations will also be crucial to support both apprentices and their employers.

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on businesses, with many still willing but incapable of providing training opportunities. Australia must take immediate steps to increase commencements and reduce the impact of COVID-19 on those already in training.

9 July 2020. Sydney Morning Herald: 54,000 fewer apprenticeships to start this year, threatening longer-term skills shortages. 

Please contact Tim Burt, for feedback or queries on the Skilling Australia report.