The Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) is to lead a $3.1 million support and mentoring project which aims to advise apprentices on their career choice and improve completion rates for apprentices in the manufacturing industry.


Minister for Skills, Senator Chris Evans, said the Ai Group would receive $2.3 million to establish a network of apprenticeship advisers that will help potential apprentices to choose the right Australian Apprenticeship for them.


The Ai Group will also receive $790,000 to improve retention rates for Australian Apprentices in the manufacturing sector with targeted mentoring and assistance.


The advisers will be based in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Wollongong, Newcastle, Albury/Wodonga, Ballarat and Bendigo.


Ai Group Chief Executive Innes Willox said the  Commonwealth-funded project, Engineering Excellence in Apprenticeships, seeks to drive the reform through implementing competency-based progression and completion arrangements for the engineering trades. Over 3,000 apprentices nationally will benefit from this rollout.


"For too long there has been much talk about improving Australia’s apprenticeship system but little more has been achieved than tinkering at the edges. Ai Group is creating a model whereby apprentices progress through all components of their apprenticeship both on-the-job and off-the-job by demonstrating competency and proficiency along the way.


Mr Willox said employers will have a key role in determining and confirming competency, thereby ensuring real work practices are embedded into the apprenticeship model.


"Industry confidence in the quality of assessment outcomes will be critical to achieving success. In order to clearly demonstrate achievement of the requisite standards, external assessment validation utilising tools developed by the National Quality Council will occur across all trial sites.


"This model will deliver the work-ready apprentices that are fundamental to addressing Australia's growing skills deficit.


"Ai Group has long advocated for competency progression arrangements in apprenticeships. We championed award changes in 2006 to the then Metals Industries Award (now the Modern Manufacturing Award) designed to allow apprentices to progress through their pay structure on the basis of competency achievement. This remains the only modern Award which provides for genuine competency based progression for apprentices.


"Ten registered training providers across six states will be involved in this project over a three year period. All Registered Training Organisations have committed to this new approach across their entire cohort of apprentices in the engineering trades. These trades typically include maintenance fitters, boilermakers, machinists, sheetmetal workers and foundry trades.


"This major project will be complemented by two further projects. The first project will provide nine Manufacturing Apprenticeship Advisers to promote and facilitate uptake in key trades in the manufacturing and engineering industries. New apprentices will be supported by four Apprenticeship Mentors, focusing upon supported and development of success strategies to assist successful outcomes for individuals, as well as lifting overall completion rates,” Mr Willox said.