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A guide to employing an apprentice or trainee in Australia

Are you thinking about taking on an apprentice or trainee? In addition to being an affordable way to recruit new employees, apprentices and trainees can bring valuable new skills and insight to your small business.

There’s a range of government support to help employers hire an apprentice or trainee in Australia. Here’s how it works.

What is an apprentice or trainee?

An apprentice or trainee is an employee who works in exchange for both on- and off-the-job training – and a wage.

What’s the difference between the two? An apprentice is in training to become a skilled tradesperson, such as an electrician, plumber, or carpenter, while a trainee focuses on a specific vocational area, such as office administration or information technology.

How does an apprenticeship or traineeship work?

An apprenticeship or traineeship is a mix of on- and off-job training where the apprentice or trainee learns a skilled trade on the job under a qualified tradesperson, and is taught – usually offsite – by a training provider.

Hundreds of different businesses can take on an apprentice or trainee, such as hairdressers, mechanics, electricians, chefs, plumbers, or cabinetmakers.

How long does an apprenticeship take?

You can hire a trainee or apprentice on a full-time, part-time, or even a school-based program.

Training pathways and duration vary in each state and territory, but, generally, traineeships last for one to two years, while apprenticeships take three to four years, with the final year spent working full time.

What should I expect to pay an apprentice or trainee?

How you pay an apprentice or trainee depends on several factors, including your apprentice or trainee’s year of training, your industry, and so on. You can use the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Pay Calculator to determine what the training scheme will cost you.

You should also be prepared to offer the same benefits you offer other employees, such as overtime, holidays, personal leave, and superannuation.

Are there any incentives that I should be aware of?

Aside from being a smart investment in the future of your business, there is also a range of financial incentives when you hire an apprentice or trainee. For example, you could be eligible for a one-off payment of up to $4,000 under the Australian Apprenticeships Incentives Program, as well as payroll tax rebates and Workers Compensation exemptions. There are extra incentives if you’re employing an apprentice with a disability, or who is mature-aged, school-based, or an Indigenous Australian.

Online accounting software, like QuickBooks Online, lets you easily record any financial incentives, rebates, or concessions related to your apprentices or trainees.

How do I find an apprentice?

Hiring an apprentice isn’t unlike hiring any other employee – you can find them through word-of-mouth, online advertising, or by getting in touch with local employment agencies. You can also use the services of the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network or Apprenticeship Support Australia.

A method of recruitment unique to apprenticeships is Group Training. This refers to an arrangement where a Group Training Organisation (GTO) recruits a trainee and places them with a ‘host’ employer. In this arrangement, the GTO is responsible for the trainee’s benefits (including wages). This is an ideal arrangement for small business owners who lack the resources to take on an apprentice or trainee full time, or view the commitment as too risky.

Getting started

Since apprenticeships and traineeships are a formal training agreement between an employer and an employee, you’ll be required to complete some paperwork.

First, you and your trainee or apprentice will need to agree on a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) to help you develop a training plan. You’ll also need to register with your local Apprenticeship Support Network provider to formalise the agreement.

After signing up with an apprenticeship provider, your role will be to act as a mentor to your employee, and provide guidance, support, feedback, and opportunities for development as they learn and explore new skills. In turn, the apprentice or trainee develops the skills needed to help you grow your business.

Hiring an apprentice or trainee does take a little more preparation and paperwork than for your average recruit, but the payoff can be huge. Not only does it help provide someone with much-needed vocational skills, it can also help your small business thrive. So take stock of your business and see whether you can find a place for a trainee or apprentice. It might be one of the best decisions you make all year.

To learn more about how to manage the needs of your small business, check out these resources.

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