Is an apprenticeship right for your teenager?

Teenagers in library

Students can train as a librarian under the School-Based Apprentice Program.
Photo Credit: mosaic36 via Compfight cc

By Robbie Reddie.

In today’s competitive work environment, it helps to get on-the-job experience and training at an early age. One option for young people is to become an apprentice. Apprenticeship allows students to gain professional insight and training in a particular industry, while at the same time building up credits towards a qualification. And your teenager wouldn’t even need to leave school if that’s the preference – it’s possible to continue working towards a secondary school education at the same time, as years 11 and 12 students are eligible for apprenticeships.

You can read more here about the Australian apprenticeship program and how it works, including the eligibility requirements. Essentially, an Australian School-Based Apprenticeship can be undertaken part-time, while the apprentice is still at school. It offers paid employment as a trainee or apprentice, hands-on experience, and the ability to continue working towards a senior school certificate. In many cases the apprenticeship will also help complete some of the training requirements leading to a nationally recognised qualification.

If your teen is interested in the career opportunities that an apprenticeship provides, he or she will want to start comparing options carefully to find a good fit.

What kind of apprenticeships are available for teenagers?

Student chefs

Students chefs.
Photo Credit: Kim Warner via Flickr

In Australia, students can choose from apprenticeships and traineeships. The difference is that apprentices undertake skilled trades such as electrical engineering, woodworking, or plumbing. Traineeship programs are similar, but they are for vocations such as office administration.

From construction to IT administration, apprenticeships cover the full range of career opportunities. For teenagers that don’t have a clear idea of the industry that they want to eventually work in, picking up general trade skills can still be beneficial, particularly in fields like engineering. Help your teenager explore their interests with a discussion of their current skills and the type of work environment they’d enjoy. It’s also helpful to see what types of opportunities are available in your area; this may narrow down the field.

Here are a few examples of potential apprenticeships for your teen.

  • Bank assistant
  • Car mechanic
  • Hairdresser or makeup artist
  • Office administrator
  • Human resources assistant
  • Electrical engineer
  • Carpenter
  • Camera/lighting technician
  • Vet clinic assistant
  • Librarian
  • Pastry chef
  • Plumber
  • Community outdoor recreation officer
  • IT network administrator
  • Graphic design assistant
  • Website administrator

You can search for a more comprehensive list of options here, narrowing the field down by region and industry type.

How the School-Based Apprentice Program works

  • The School-Based Apprentice Program combines vocational training, secondary school subjects, and paid work experience.
  • Teenagers can select from a range of occupations and work towards a Certificate I, II, III, IV, Diploma, or Advanced Diploma level of qualification.
  • Some apprenticeships can be completed by the time the student has finished their secondary schooling, while others will extend longer than this time period.
  • Australian Apprenticeships typically last between one and four years depending on the industry and qualification. Similarly, the weekly hours will vary.
  • Some apprenticeships can be worked at on the weekends for a couple of hours, while others will require some time away from school.
  • Apprentices may need to negotiate time-release from secondary school to attend work and training depending on the employer’s requirements, so this is something to look at when comparing options.

To begin an Australian School-Based Apprenticeship, the student must not only have your support but also the support of the school, employer, and supervising training organisation. You and your teen will need to sign a training contract to this effect.

What to look for in an apprenticeship

Once your teenager has some idea of the industry type he or she would like to explore, you can then start comparing individual companies.

Company culture

Photo Credit: matt.thompson11 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: matt.thompson11 via Compfight cc

Workplaces can vary, and there are benefits to working with both large and small companies. Large employers will usually hire a higher number of apprentices at a time, and may have plenty of experience with a firmly established training program. However, some apprentices may prefer working for a smaller start-up business, to learn the nuts and bolts of the business from top to bottom. Look at the company’s size and values as well as the job duties that would be expected of apprentices. Finally, pay and benefits should also be considered in the equation.

Training and mentorship opportunities

It’s important to define how the apprentice will be supported during the training process, as practical experience is one of the major benefits of an apprenticeship. Questions to ask include: Will your teenager be assigned a personal mentor? Is there room for growth with this position? What type of training program does the company offer?

Career possibilities

An apprenticeship is a stepping stone to achieving career goals, so keep the big picture in mind as you compare opportunities with your child. Does the apprenticeship make sense in the larger context of your teenager’s goals? What type of job placement assistance does the company offer at the completion of the apprenticeship? Is any type of qualification to be awarded at the completion of the program?


As parents, we can support our children in their search for an apprenticeship by doing research and presenting various options. Attend skills and careers events together, and discuss career ambitions with your teenager to determine whether or not an apprenticeship could be a good fit with her or his long-term goals.




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