Apprenticeships

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What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a formal training program where you will combine study, usually at TAFE Queensland, 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, the arrangement must be registered with the Department of Employment, Small Business and Training – see ‘Training Agreements’, below. 

The QLD Government has also put together a handy guide on starting an apprenticeship here. 

Types of apprenticeships

There are two types of apprenticeships available in QLD: 

School-based apprenticeships and traineeships (SATs) 

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 Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE) and/or ATAR score. You would need to complete between 50 to 80 days of training each year, depending on your industry. Most SATs students work for their employer 7.5 hours (one day) per week. To be considered a formal SAT arrangement, your shifts at work must impact your school timetable – i.e., the idea is not to try and fit work around school, but to work during school hours.

If you choose to finish grade 12 and complete your QCE, you can also complete both the formal and the on-the-job training whilst still at school. This means you will be a full-time 2nd or 3rd year apprentice after you finish grade 12.

For more information, please visit this page from the Queensland Government: School-based apprenticeships and traineeships. 

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 you are responsible for applying for an apprentice job with an employer, and for enrolling in an approved course. See the federal government website Australian Apprentices for further information.

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

To begin an apprenticeship, you must be at least 15 years old, for an Australian Apprenticeship and school-based apprenticeships.

You can start an apprenticeship even while you are still at school. This means you can finish years 11 and 12 while you are already at work or you can undertake training or an apprenticeship full time. 

There are some apprenticeships that you can’t do until you are over 18 (unless you have completed an appropriate qualification, or you are employed under a registered training contract). For more information on the list of apprenticeships you need special qualifications or a contract for, visit: Restricted Calling.

Training agreements

When you start an apprenticeship, you and your employer need to sign a training contract which needs to be drawn up with the assistance of your Australian Apprenticeship Support Network (AASN) provider. This contract sets out all the details of your apprenticeship, roles and responsibilities. Your AASN will then lodge your contract for you with the Department of Employment, Small Business and Training.

For students undertaking a SAT, you will need to first discuss the contract with your school and have their support before registering the contract. Your AASN can discuss how to do this with you. 

Attending TAFE

The training component for an apprenticeship in QLD is undertaken through TAFE Queensland, or another Supervised Registered Training Organisation (SRTO). This means the study or coursework part is done through TAFE or your SRTO, and you do the on-the-job training with your employer. Before you enrol in a course, you need to have already found an employer willing to take you on as an apprentice.

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

For more information on how to find an apprenticeship with an employer, see: Find an apprenticeship or traineeship. 

How much should I be paid?

An apprentice must be paid either as a full-time employee or a part-time employee, for all hours spent working and undertaking the approved study component.  There is no such thing as a “casual” apprenticeship. However, most apprentices are paid a percentage of the regular full-time rate; for example, a second year hairdressing apprentice must be paid no less than 60% of a fully qualified hairdresser rate. 

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 

For more information on wages and entitlements as an apprentice in Queensland, see: Apprentice and trainee wages and entitlements. 

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. 

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: Trade Unions. 

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.8 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. 

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.

The Queensland Government also has a page on available support services for apprentices, which you can find here. 

If you’re under 25 and have a question about apprenticeships that we haven't answered here, please contact us here and we can give you free information and advice.

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