Apprentices' training time cut

Rob Long and Phill Chadwick

Further examples of TAFE Institutes cutting apprentices’ training away from work have emerged as TAFE management prepares for the 2015 staged implementation of the NSW Government’s Smart and Skilled policy.

In the Hunter, metal fabrication students are seeing their teaching day reduced from eight to seven hours.

Carpentry apprentices at Miller College in the South Western Sydney Institute have had their course shortened by three months and their daily attendance hours have also been reduced from eight down to seven hours.

In North Sydney electrical apprentices are seeing their course face-to-face delivery reduced from 144 hours per semester to 136 hours.

Education (February 17) reported electro-technology apprentices in the Illawarra are having their annual teaching year shaved from 36 weeks to 30 and plumbing students in Mount Druitt are losing 18 weeks of face-to-face teaching over their three-year TAFE certificate.

In the 1950s the trade union movement successfully campaigned for apprentices to receive off the job education to supplement their trade training at work. Apprentices were given paid release to learn away from the day to day pressures of work deadlines. Over an extended period TAFE NSW has shaved and rescheduled teaching and education hours in many courses. However, apprentices paid time to learn away from work have remained a critical element the NSW apprenticeship system.

Historically, a typical trade apprenticeship lasted four years and the apprentice received three years of day release to attend formal off the job training at a provider such as the local TAFE college. A normal attendance pattern consisted of an eight-hour day, 36 weeks per year for three years. In some rural areas, block release over a number of days in the same week was preferred to reduce travel.

The content of a trade course is set by an Industry Skills Council (ISC) training package, not TAFE. There has been no reduction in the content of the training packages. To achieve student competency with reduced face-to-face hours the favoured strategy is the use of mixed mode delivery involving online delivery using platforms such as Moodle. This mode of delivery effectively strips away an apprentice’s day release hours as the apprentice is expected to go to work — study is done in their own time. This is a fundamental change to the apprentice teaching and learning system.

Federation will continue the campaign to stop the cuts to apprentice time to learn away work. If you have information about cuts to apprentice courses or other cuts to students’ education or teachers’ work email your union at

Rob Long is a TAFE Organiser and Phill Chadwick is the President of TAFE TA.