5:00 PM, 23 Mar 2020

For those wishing to change careers, re-enter the workplace or to update their skills whilst currently employed within an industry, Australia Apprenticeships can help you.

'Adult Apprenticeship' is a confusing term, since it can mean different things in different contexts.

Firstly, it is more important to note that an 'Adult Apprenticeship' is not a separate form of apprenticeship or traineeship. An apprenticeship (or traineeship) is available to anyone in Australia who is of working age and has the right to work in the country. No apprenticeships or traineeships exist that are exclusively for adults.

Nonetheless, several aspects of adult apprenticeships are different from those of other apprenticeships. An example here would be wages and financial incentives. The following information outlines the key differences that apply to adult apprentices and trainees.

Who is eligible for an apprenticeship or traineeship?

Apprenticeships and traineeships are available to anyone who is of working age and has the right to work in Australia. No maximum age limit exists.

It is not mandatory to have any previous secondary school certificates or any other qualifications. Nonetheless, you should bear in mind that employers often have preferences regarding school achievements, experience and skills that influence their recruitment decisions. As many apprenticeships are physically demanding, you must be realistic when deciding whether you are fit for the job.

Visit the 'What are Australian Apprenticeshipspage to find out more about the eligibility criteria for apprenticeships and traineeships.

At what age are you considered to be an adult apprentice?

The Fairwork Ombudsman defines an apprentice over 21 years of age as an adult apprentice. Adult apprentices are often entitled to adult pay rates, which will be outlined for the relevant award.

Also employers who hire adult apprentices could be entitled to the Support for Adult Australian Apprentices incentive if the apprentices meet the following criteria:

  1. The apprentice is aged 21 or over if stating the Australian Apprenticeship after 1st July 2019
  2. The apprentice is aged 25 or over if they started the Australian Apprenticeship before 1st July 2019

Do companies hire adult apprentices or trainees?

Yes, they do. Since 1996, there has been a significant increase in the number of adult apprentices hired in relation to younger apprentices.

Data from the period between 1996 and 2018 shows that:

  • The number of adult apprentices starting training programmes in non-trade professions rose from 22% to 39%.
  • The number of adult apprentices starting training programmes in trade professions rose from 8% to 22%.

Visit NCVER's The changing nature of apprenticeships: 1996 - 2016: Infographic for further information about this. Additionally, the NCVER's Apprentice and Trainee Collection publications contain more data for the year 2016 onwards.

The employer ultimately has the final say in deciding who they recruit as an apprentice/trainee. Although some seek out specific personality traits and skills, others may base their recruitment decisions on financial factors.

Some employers might not have the money to pay the rates for adult apprentices, and this is something you may discover when enquiring about apprenticeships with different employers or during the application process.

You can go to our Adult Apprenticeships Job Hunting page for more advice on finding an adult apprenticeship or traineeship.

Are you changing to a new industry?

When changing careers or choosing to enter a new profession or industry, you must bear in mind that your prior qualifications, work experience and skills may not be relevant to the work involved in your new apprenticeship.

Although you may be mature and have significant work experience, the skills learned for your previous work may not be applicable to the work required in your apprenticeship or traineeship. For this reason, you might begin as an 'entry-level' apprentice or trainee, and you will be required to carry out the apprenticeship or traineeship until completion.

Do you have existing experience?

If you happen to possess important skills, knowledge and work experience that you have learned through life lessons, education, work experience or existing qualifications, you might be entitled to receive credits that will help you to achieve the qualification of your specific Australian Apprenticeship.

The Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is a formal technique used to compare a person's existing skills, knowledge and work experience to those required during the training units for the apprenticeship qualification. Your Registered Training Organisation (for example, TAFE) or your private training provider will carry out the RPL assessment with you.

Click here for further information about the Recognition of Prior Learning.

Incentives and Wages

Understanding the wages and government financial incentives that you are entitled to as an adult apprentice or trainee is crucial for both the employer and the employee. Financial incentives often play a major role in an employer's decision to hire adult apprentices and trainees.

Adult apprentices typically receive higher pay rates than their junior counterparts. See the Fair Work Ombudsman Website, or call them on 13 13 94 to find out more information about pay rates for adult apprentices.


Support for Adult Apprentices

Employers who choose to hire adult apprentices may be entitled to financial incentives through the Australian Apprenticeships Incentives Program if they meet the eligibility criteria.


Mature Aged Workers Incentives

Employers who hire workers aged 45 or over may be entitled to Mature Aged Workers incentives.

Get in touch with your Apprenticeship Network Provider to check your eligibility to receive this incentive.


Restart Incentive

The restart financial incentive was established to promote the recruitment of workers aged 50 and above.

Further details about the restart incentive can be found by following the link below.



Contact an Apprenticeship Network Provider to check your eligibility for financial support. SEARCH FOR A PROVIDER