Facts behind drop in apprentice and trainee numbers

Mark Coulton, Federal MP for Parkes, has taken aim at the Labor government, blaming them for the nearly six per cent drop in the number of apprentices and trainees taking up a new trade or learning a new skill within the electorate.

New data from the National Centre for Vocational Education and Research (NCVER) indicates a 5.98 per cent drop in the number of apprentices and trainees (3430 to 3225) in the Parkes electorate within the current Labor government’s first year in charge.

Mr Coulton has compared the figures to the final year (2021/22) of the previous Coalition government in which a 20.25 per cent change was recorded. The MP says, “this is a blow to communities throughout my electorate which need more people, not less, upskilling to meet the ever-growing skills shortage in our rural areas. Labor promised they would skill more Australians, but their programs are not delivering, and we are suffering the consequences”, Mr Coulton said.

But Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O’Connor told the Barrier Truth the Coalition was being deliberately misleading when it came to apprentice numbers, saying commencement rates had steadily declined from 2014 under the previous Coalition government.

“Our government is targeting investment in apprentices and trainees in areas of the economy where skills are needed most, and more money is going direct to apprentices, Minister O’Connor told us.

“And it’s working – trade commencements were up almost 20 per cent in Labor’s first year in government, compared to June 2019, pre-Covid and pre-BAC emergency spending,” Mr O’Connor told us.

In 2014, a total of 219,695 Australians commenced trade and non-trade apprenticeships, and by June 2020, that figure had fallen to 134,795. In 2021, it was back up to 216,535 and by June 2022, was sitting at 277,895. However, the number has fallen in the year between July 2022 and June 2023, with 166,375 apprentice commencements nationwide.

It’s a statistic the Federal government wants to get on top of and resolve – this week they announced an Australian Apprenticeships Incentive System Strategic Review. Justice Iain Ross, along with Lisa Paul, have been selected to lead the review, the purpose of which is to address the “most serious skills shortages in decades”.

Mr O’Connor says the Incentive System should play a key role in building the country’s labour force by supporting apprentices and trainees to receive quality training and opportunities for secure, well-paid work, and encouraging businesses to take on apprentices and trainees.

“Getting the best outcomes for apprentices and trainees is vital to ensuring we have the skills our economy needs,” says the Minister.

We know that almost half of all apprentices don’t complete their training. Addressing the completion rate is not just vitally important for individuals and employers, but also for the Australian economy”, he says.

The review is accepting written submissions until May 15, and will establish a national program of online and face-to-face consultations in the coming weeks. For more information and to make a submission, visit



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