How to employ an apprentice or trainee​

Find information on how to employ an apprentice or trainee, drawing up a training contract, changing a training contract, probationary periods and more.

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What is an apprenticeship or traineeship?

An apprenticeship or traineeship is a contract between a registered employer and an apprentice or trainee. The employer undertakes to train and employ the apprentice or trainee in a vocation or trade.

There are benefits to taking on an apprentice/trainee including:

  • filling skills gaps in your business
  • developing the skills of your supervisors
  • increasing the skilled workforce of South Australia
  • access to WorkReady subsidised training for your apprentice or trainee (subject to eligibility)
  • access to State and/or Australian Government incentives. See incentives for employers.

Employers can find more information on employing apprentices and trainees at Australian Apprenticeship pathways.

How an apprenticeship works

You and your apprentice will have a formal training and employment arrangement called a training contract.

Your apprentice will learn on-job at your place of work, under supervision by a qualified person, as well as in classroom environments (off-job) at a training provider.

They will study towards a nationally recognised qualification and obtain a trade certificate when they finish. The State Government may fund most of the off-job training costs if your apprentice is eligible for subsidised training.

Most full-time apprenticeships last for four years.

How a traineeship works

You and your trainee will have a formal training and employment arrangement called a training contract.

A traineeship is the time spent learning a job (or vocation) under a supervisor in an employment arrangement. Traineeships can be done in just about any workplace – in a shop, on a farm or office for example.

Throughout the traineeship your trainee will work towards a nationally recognised qualification.

You will provide on-job training and experience to your trainee which complements what they are learning with their training provider. The State Government may fund most of the off-job training costs if your trainee is eligible for subsidised training.

Most full-time traineeships last for 12-24 months. Part-time traineeships would run over a longer period.

Seven steps to signing on an apprentice or trainee

  • Step 1 – apply for registration to employ and train apprentices and trainees.
  • Step 2 – find a candidate to sign up as an apprentice or trainee.
  • Step 3 - choose an Apprenticeship Network Provider (ANP) to assist you and your apprentice or trainee to complete and lodge a training contract.
  • Step 4 – you and your apprentice or trainee negotiate the training arrangements and complete a training plan with your chosen training provider.
  • Step 5 – the State Government’s Regulation and Contract Management will assess the training contract application and advise you in writing of the decision.
  • Step 6 – you or your nominated supervisor provide on-job training to your apprentice or trainee and pay them wages including (in most cases) the time they are attending formal training.
  • Step 7 – When you, your apprentice/trainee and your training provider all agree the apprentice or trainee has displayed competence in the workplace, they can be signed off.

Three groups you need to know about

1. Regulation and Contract Management: a part of the South Australian Department of State Development:

  • registers employers to employ and train apprentices and trainees
  • assesses and approves training contracts
  • approves variations and completions of training contracts
  • issues letters and certificates indicating the successful completion of an apprenticeship or traineeship
  • provides information, advice and assistance to apprentices, trainees and employers.

For anything relating to traineeships and apprenticeships contact Regulation and Contract Management.

2. Apprenticeship Network Providers (ANPs): Apprenticeship Network Providers are non-government organisations contracted by the Australian Government to help employers and apprentices or trainees to enter into a training contract.

They are responsible for:

  • helping parties to prepare training contracts
  • helping with the selection of an appropriate qualification
  • helping with the selection of a training provider
  • making sure that a training contract is lodged with Regulation and Contract Management
  • administering incentive payments to eligible employers
  • administering income support and other payments to eligible trainees and apprentices
  • providing mentoring to assist in the successful completion of the training contract.

For further information regarding Apprenticeship Network Providers or incentive payments, call 13 38 73 or visit the Apprenticeship Network Providers website.

3. Training Providers

Your apprentice or trainee will get a mix of on-job training (done in your workplace under supervision) and off-job or formal training that is provided by a training provider.

It is up to you and your apprentice or trainee, with the assistance of an ANP, to work out the appropriate qualification your apprentice or trainee should do through their training contract, according to the occupation.

Some training providers can offer a government subsidised training place if your apprentice or trainee is eligible.

If a government subsidised training place is not available, you or your apprentice or trainee will have to meet all course costs.

You may have a preference or recommendation for a training provider but you should both agree on the choice. (Most people prefer to study close to where they live, or where other apprentices or trainees from the same workplace attend.)

Training plans and off-job training

The training provider can advise what off-job training components will be required for the apprentice or trainee to complete their qualification. You and the apprentice or trainee agree what off-job training will be carried out, with which training provider and when.

The training provider then draws up a training plan which you and the apprentice or trainee must agree to. It outlines:

  • the qualification being obtained
  • core and elective units you and the apprentice or trainee have selected
  • the training provider’s location of training delivery
  • the mode of training delivery, eg classroom learning once per week, block release over two weeks every term, or online.

The training plan forms part of the training contract which is drawn up by your ANP.

Training contracts

A training contract is a legally binding document that is agreed between an apprentice or trainee and their employer.

It is drawn up by an Apprenticeship Network Provider. It outlines:

  • apprentice or trainee details
  • employer details
  • parent or guardian details (if applicable)
  • the trade or vocation
  • the qualification that will be delivered
  • the nominal term of the contract
  • the probationary period
  • the industrial arrangement underpinning the employment conditions
  • whether the contract is full-time, part-time or school-based (note, apprentices and trainees cannot be employed on a casual basis)
  • the number of hours of work and training per week
  • the selected registered training organisation
  • the obligations of both the employer and the apprentice or trainee.

To find your nearest Apprenticeship Network Provider, go to Find my ANP or call 13 38 73.

Changing your training contract

Most changes you or your apprentice or trainee want to make to your training contract have to be approved by Regulation and Contract Management.

Regulation and Contract Management will generally approve the changes if you and your apprentice or trainee both agree.

If you wish to make any changes to your contract:

  • your apprentice or trainee must agree to the change you want to make (likewise, if your apprentice or trainee wants to change anything, they must get your agreement)
  • and you MUST apply to Regulation and Contract Management.

For information and forms relating to changes, see changing your apprenticeship or traineeship.

If you can’t agree on a change there are processes in place to help both you and your apprentice or trainee. See resolving issues.

Probationary periods

Probationary periods are built into training contracts as a way of allowing apprentices, trainees and their employers to withdraw from the apprenticeship or traineeship should any party decide it is not for them.

The probationary periods will generally be as follows for a training contract which commences on or after 1 February 2016:

Term of Training Contract Probationary period
Up to 24 months 60 days
More than 24 months 90 days

Note, probationary periods cannot be extended.

How do you withdraw during the probationary period?

Any party that wishes to withdraw must notify the other in writing within the probationary period. Employers must then notify Regulation and Contract Management of the termination in writing within seven days.

For a withdrawal form, see changing your apprenticeship or traineeship.

Minimum hours

The minimum required hours of employment and training is now 15 hours per week for part-time apprentices or trainees who start on or after 1 February 2016, or 7.5 hours per week for school-based apprentices or trainees.

Apprentices or trainees who started before 1 February 2016 are not affected by this change, unless they apply to reduce their hours of employment and training on or after this date. 

Averaging of hours

Apprentices and trainees can now average their hours of employment and training over a four week period. School-based apprentices or trainees may average their hours of employment and training over a three month period.

You and your apprentice or trainee must agree in advance to average their hours, and develop a roster of their employment and training for the period. This must be documented and kept by you. See the Minimum Hours of paid employment and training guideline for more information.

How many apprentices or trainees can you take on at any one time?

Apprentices

Due to the nature of apprenticeships, an apprentice in their first or second year/stage must be under the direct supervision of a person who is either qualified in the trade, or has an appropriate level of industry experience relevant to the apprenticeship.

A supervisor may oversee only one first or second year/stage apprentice at any time.

Supervisors in licensed trades will be required to hold the relevant licence(s). Regulation and Contract Management will verify licences in the employer registration application process; see employer registration.

Once an apprentice reaches their third year/stage, you can determine an appropriate level of supervision that takes into account accepted industry supervision standards, the level of competence of the apprentice and any risk that the work and/or work environment may pose to the health and safety of the apprentice.

You are advised to inform apprentices of any changes to the supervision ratio.

Trainees

You must have at least one supervisor per five trainees, no matter what year or stage of the traineeship.

Apprentices and trainees

The maximum number of apprentices and trainees that one supervisor may oversee is five.

If a supervisor is responsible for providing direct supervision to a first or second year/stage apprentice, the same supervisor may provide general supervision to any combination of up to four trainees or third or fourth year/stage apprentices.

Note, apprentices and trainees cannot be responsible for supervising other apprentices or trainees.

An application can be made to exceed the required supervision ratio.

To read the supervision guidelines, visit the Training and Skills Commission website.

Read the supervising your apprentice or trainee booklet, and view the video to get useful hints and tips for providing first class supervision.

Supervising your apprentice video (YouTube 15m)

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