Undertaking an apprenticeship within the building and construction industry in Australia has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years. It is being recognised as ultimately a rewarding experience and a strong alternative to racking up a large student loan through university. Undertaking an apprenticeship will enable you to learn a trade whilst at the same time, earn a wage. So, what’s involved in getting an apprenticeship and why should you want one?

What is an apprenticeship?

Before we begin, an apprenticeship  involves learning a trade through a combination of education and employment. Available to anyone of working age, an apprenticeship does not involve a secondary school qualification; rather it grants you a Certificate III trade qualification. An example of one such trade course is the CPC30220 Certificate III in Carpentry. Trainees participating will be expected to complete twenty-two core units and eight elective units. During this time, they will learn the necessary skills to safely use tools and equipment such as:

  • Nail guns
  • Power tools
  • Scaffolding
  • Generators
  • Automatic and laser levels, etc

The course will run for three years full-time but is also available part-time as well. At the end of the apprenticeship, if successful, the trainee will be able to pursue a career as a carpenter and eventually apply for their building registration and licence.

First step – narrowing down your trade of choice

While it might not be as simple as clicking your fingers and instantly knowing your biggest life passion, there are many career resources available to assist the decision-making process. One such site to learn as much as you can about the industry is the Australian Apprenticeships Pathways (AAP). This online treasure trove of links, fact sheets and information will give you plenty of reading material about the apprenticeship opportunities available in each state, as well as providing training and career information.

Depending on your skills and interests, whether you prefer working indoors or out, had a love of working solo or in teams, building, or decorating something, this will determine which particular trade is best suited to your wheelhouse. Just some of the trades that you can become an apprentice in include: carpenter, bricklayer, concreter, tiler, joiner, stonemason and plasterer.

Improving your chances of obtaining an apprenticeship

Once you know the particular trade you’d be interested in pursuing, you have the option of undergoing a Cert II pre-apprenticeship course to improve the likelihood of an employer taking you on as their apprentice. Whether to become an electrician, bricklayer, carpenter or plumber, a pre-apprenticeship course will give you a better understanding of what to expect going into an apprenticeship, as well as teaching you valuable trade-related skills. Many employers prefer candidates who have completed such a course and this will help you stand out amongst the competition. The Cert II pre-app in building and construction can cover many aspects of the industry and allow you to enter the building site with prior knowledge of the best use of tools and safe work practices.

Becoming an apprentice

So once you’ve locked in your preferred trade, what’s next? You have one of two options: you can approach a construction company directly to enquire about any available apprenticeships, or you can register with a Group Training Organisation (GTO). GTOs are usually run by an industry association and employ a number of apprentices at the same time and places them with one or multiple employers for either a short or long term basis. As most apprenticeships aren’t advertised, the direct approach is often best, so polish up your CV and craft a personalised cover letter to show you’re serious. Construction companies won’t take on somebody who appears ill-prepared or not eager for work. To find a Group Training Organisation near you, click on the link.

Site manager using electronic tablet
Site manager using electronic tablet

If you’re still struggling to find a willing employer, try searching the job vacancies ads online or in your local paper. It’s also advisable to network at any local trade events or through friends and family with contacts in the industry. Also try contacting a jobactive organisation in your area to help in your search.

Finding a school pathway program

Depending on whether you go through a GTO or a construction company, it will be up to you, your employer or your organisation representative to decide on a registered training organisation to manage the schooling side of your apprenticeship. It’s important to choose an RTO that offers a course that’s related to your career path and which has a solid industry reputation. For more information on apprenticeships, visit the Australian Apprenticeships website to find a support centre near you.

More on school-based apprenticeships and adult apprenticeships

You can sometimes start an Australian Apprenticeship while you’re still at school, depending on the options available at your individual establishment. Essentially a mix of vocational education, academic learning, paid employment and training, Australian School-Based Apprenticeships work together with your current schooling to help get you started on the path to becoming a qualified tradesperson. To learn more about the options available at your school, you’ll have to speak with your teachers or career advisor.

In regards to an adult apprenticeship, these can be completed at any working age and do not necessarily require a completed high school qualification.

The incentives for an employer taking on an apprentice

From an employers’ point of view, there are many advantages to taking on an apprenticeship. First and foremost, employers benefit from the various financial incentives available through the Australian Government. These incentives are available to help support the development of certain skills in the workforce and contributes to economic sustainability as a whole. Trades that are currently experiencing skills shortages will invariably receive more incentives. Make sure you research the Australian Government Australian Apprenticeships Incentives Programme to find out if you’re eligible.