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So you think apprenticeships and traineeships aren’t for older job seekers? Think again!

Johanna Milbank
Written by Johanna Milbank

Here is a guide to the ins and outs of apprenticeships and traineeships for the older job seeker.

Most people consider apprenticeships and traineeships as only for younger people, especially those just leaving school and starting out in the workforce. But in today’s modern employment market where it is common for people to have a number of careers over their life time, an apprenticeship or traineeship is a good way to re-skill and up-skill within an industry or to change careers to a different industry or role than what you have done previously. This is especially relevant for older job seekers who are no longer able (most likely due to physical fitness or health) to do harder physical work and need to change to a new role to be able to continue working. This often entails changing careers completely however, it could be within the same industry but in a different role.

An apprenticeship or traineeship can be done at any age, but the same barriers apply as for any other employment and age discrimination does occur.  What you need is an employer willing to hire you under a Contract of Training. Here is an example:

“A 63 year old JobActive client who was considered to be long term unemployed. They gained employment with a Real Estate agency and commenced their Certificate III in Property Services. They completed the 18 month traineeship and remained in employment with the same employer upon successfully completion of the Training Contract.”

What is the difference between an apprenticeship and a traineeship?

Both apprenticeships and traineeships combine work and study to obtain a qualification. Apprenticeships are specific to Trade qualifications like carpenter, hairdresser, chef etc and take 2 – 4 years to complete. Traineeships are specific to industry or occupation roles such as office work, childcare, information and technology etc and take 1 to 3 years to complete.

Employment Terms
Example Qualifications
Between 3-4 years Common qualification levels are Certificate II, III, IV and Diploma Contract can’t be terminated unless both the apprentice and employer mutually agree on the terms of the contract

Certificate II Horticulture

Certificate II in Automotive Services Technology

Certificate II in Engineering Pathways

Certificate II in Construction

Between 1 – 4 years Common qualification levels are Certificate II, III, IV and Advanced Diploma Like normal employment contracts, traineeships can be terminated by either the trainee or the employer at any time

Certificate III in Hospitality

Certificate III in Individual Support

Certificate IV in Hairdressing

Certificate III in Property Services

Certificate III in Business Administration

Visit to find out more information on apprenticeships and traineeships.

What courses can be done as an apprenticeship or traineeship? 

It is more than just trades. There are literally hundreds of different trade certificates or industry qualifications that can be done as an apprenticeship or traineeship.

Visit to explore different course options

Here is another useful site that provides Job Pathway Charts for various different industries and the potential career pathways that can begin with an apprenticeship or traineeship:

The players –

  • Job seekers or individuals – who want to undertake an apprenticeship or traineeship. The benefit for an individual is it allows them to gain a nationally recognised qualification while earning an income. It also enables the apprentice/trainee to gain practical experience to apply their learning.
  • Employer – employs the apprentice or trainee. The benefits for the employer include building business capability, bringing new techniques and learning into the business through the apprentice/trainee’s training with an external Training Provider, fresh perspective and innovation, allows mentoring and passing on of skills and knowledge from other staff members to the apprentice/trainee and ‘future proofing’ your business to remain viable into the future.
  • Registered Training Organisation (RTO) – delivers the accredited training course being undertaken through the apprenticeship or traineeship.
  • Government – Federal and State – offers incentives to the employer and sometimes funded training courses in skill shortage areas.
  • Australian Apprenticeship Support Network (AASN) Provider – The Australian Government contracts AASN providers as the first point of contact to provide information and advice to support employers, apprentices and trainees across Australia to better navigate the apprenticeship and traineeship system. The ASSN also oversees the execution of the Training contract between the other parties. There are two AASN Providers in South Australia; MAS National (MAS Experience) and MEGT.

Training Contract

The Training Contract is a legally binding contract which shows that the trainee/apprentice and the employer have come to an agreement. It details the length of the training period, apprenticeship or traineeship, details the Registered Training Organisation delivering the training, the qualification being obtained, the employment arrangements and industrial award.


Both State and Federal Governments provide a range of incentives for employers to take on an apprentice or trainee. These can vary anywhere between $750 up to $3000 for successful completion. Incentives are calculated on a number of different factors and are mostly dependent on the individual being hired, their circumstances and the industry. You will need to speak with an ASSN to get an understanding of the potential incentives the employer may be eligible for.

Note: Incentives often change from year to year and with different Governments, so you will only be able to give an approximation and it is best for the employer to speak directly with the ASSN for the most up to date information.


As older job seekers will often have mortgages and families to support, taking on a low paid role is often not an option. Many apprentices and trainees are paid at a lower training rate but these do increase each year of the apprenticeships/traineeship. But apprentices and trainees can be paid at standard award rate for that role or industry and this may depend on the other experiences and skills you bring with you into the role. If you are up-skilling within an industry this is especially true and would not mean you are paid at a lower training rate. If you are changing careers and industries, it is a bit more difficult but you would bring with you many transferable skills and life experiences which mean you would be more immediately productive than a school leaver. You can build this case with an employer to go in at a higher rate because of these other skills you bring with you. This is negotiated with the employer on a case by case basis.

Full-time or Part-time

It doesn’t have to be full-time. Apprenticeships but mostly traineeships can be done part-time but there is an average minimum of 15 hours per week of employment. The effect of a part-time traineeship is the length of the Training Contract is increased proportionally. Also if you have finished your training and the employer is willing to sign you off as competent, you can complete your Training Contract earlier. This is especially relevant if you already have experience before commencing the traineeship or apprenticeship.

How to find an apprenticeship of traineeship

As with other employment or jobs, many are not advertised and this is even truer for apprenticeships and traineeships. Word of mouth and networking here is your best option. MAS Experience as an AASN can help you identify the industry and course(s) that match your career goals and assist you to develop an Action Plan that will help you to achieve your apprenticeship/traineeship goals. Some employers do use the AASN’s to find an apprentice or trainee but most come through networking or word of mouth before they even get to an AASN. Tracy Stone from MAS Experience provides the following tips for finding an apprenticeship or traineeship:

  • Research and understand the role that you are trying to obtain. Employers love to see you have a genuine interest in the industry.
  • Tailor your resume for the position. Ensure you are highlighting your transferable skills to show you are suitable for the role.
  • Use all of your networks. Word of mouth is very influential when looking for an apprenticeship or traineeship.

So now you have the basics you can consider if an apprenticeship or traineeship is for you, regardless of your age!

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Johanna Milbank

Johanna Milbank

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