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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.

Skills SA has put together a handy timeline for starting your apprenticeship which can be found here.  

Types of apprenticeships

There are two types of apprenticeships you can do – a School-Based Part Time Apprenticeship, or an Australian Apprenticeship:

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 SACE. 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 SACE.

You can start a school based apprenticeship from year 10.

For more information, please visit: SA Government: Australian School Based Apprenticeships.

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.   

It is similar to the regular school-based apprenticeship program, but this one is run by the Federal Government of Australia and not the State of South Australia.  

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 have completed year 9.

You can start an apprenticeship even when you are still at school. This means you can finish years 10, 11 and 12 when you are already working.

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 18 to work in mines.

Training agreements

Before you commence your 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, or a school based apprentice you must enter a training contract with your employer, which is then registered with an Apprenticeship Network Provider (ANP). There are two ANPs in South Australia – MAS National Ltd and MEGT (Australia) Ltd. See here for more information on training contracts.

Attending TAFE SA

Most apprentices in SA are undertaken through TAFE SA, 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. See here for a list of all qualifications offered in SA and the RTO who offers it. 

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. 

How much will 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 approve study component., e.g., your time at TAFE. 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

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. 

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: 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. 

South Australian Skills Commission

The SA Skills Commission has specific processes you can follow if you have a dispute or complaint that needs resolving in your apprenticeship. See Support and Dispute Resolution for information and assistance.

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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