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How to become an apprentice or trainee Part 1

Want to study but need to work to pay bills, or have a passion for a trade? Or fancy yourself as a ‘doer’ and enjoy building practical skills leading to strong job opportunities?

An apprenticeship or traineeship may be the best option for you. But how do you begin? 

You’ll need to find an employer before beginning an apprenticeship or traineeship. Your relationship with the employer will be formalised into a contract with the help of an AASN (Australian Apprenticeship Support Network provider), which is a business that lodges your training plan with the state government to register you as an apprentice or trainee. The AASN will also help your employer seek financial incentives for employing you and will work with a training organisation, such as South Metropolitan TAFE to enrol you in your units of study.

Finding an employer can be daunting, especially if you’re straight out of high school or haven’t had the opportunity to build a network of contacts or a strong work experience history for your resume. 


We’ve collaborated with career advisors, AASNs and our lecturers to put together a range of ideas for getting an agreement from the employer of your dreams. 

To break it down, we begin with the tactics that have the strongest ability to get you a foot in the door, beginning with study to build basic skills, to enlisting professional help, then we reveal creative work opportunities that sit outside the box and still give you a leg up in the career world; and finally we showcase the best research and networking approaches you should use to build new relationships with employers. 

Method 1: Study that leads to work opportunities

An accredited TAFE qualification is a way to prove you have what it takes to do the work. 

Study takes time and effort, but is incredibly rewarding. If you’ve not been a fan of high school, you might really enjoy adult education as the pressures of the school yard are removed and you can be among people with similar interests and goals who inspire you to reach further. 

TAFE also has many support services to better your chances of study success, particularly if you’ve had study challenges in the past. See our Support Services page for a list of the ways we help you.

There’s increasingly more entry options to study that lead to employability. We’ve broken down two of the key pathways below: study while in high school, or taking on a pre-apprenticeship course.

OPTION 1: Begin early with a VET Delivered to Secondary Students (VET DSS) course

If you’re in year 10 or year 11, you should talk to the VET Coordinator at your school about studying a course while in your last year or two years at school. 

Pre-apprenticeship and Certificate II or III courses can allow you to pick up a study pathway to give you skills employers want to know you have before you begin work.

Your study pathway at school can be done as well as gaining your WACE (WA Certificate of Education) boosting your chances of entry to competitive university courses and your chances at employment after uni graduation. Or, VET DSS study can give you credit to a TAFE Certificate III, IV or even Diploma  after you finish school. Some VET DSS courses even give you a full qualification by school graduation and make you instantly ready to work!

Studying while at school can help to break down the transition between school and adult education study or work, and build confidence personally. 

Jumping straight from the supportive environment of high school can be frightening if you’ve never been fully independent before. Both work and adult education expect you to self-manage your time and commitments, so VET DSS  is a great way to soften the blow. Plus you’ll be ahead of the pack with your skills and basic knowledge! To see the courses and application instructions you can use with your VET Coordinator to begin the process, visit our Still at school page.

OPTION 1: Study a pre-apprenticeship as a school leaver or mature student

Study before an apprenticeship saves the employer time and money to take on someone who already has basic skills as well as the peace of mind that you know how to move safely through your work. 

Many courses include you completing hands-on training Units of Competency  in TAFE clinics, simulators, centres and workshops, where you get to learn in a safe, supportive environment that mirrors the real world.

Whether you’re at school or a school leaver (or even a mature career-changer) a pre-apprenticeship can be an option to get you work-ready for trades. All pre-apprenticeships include the mandatory safety units required for working in the industry and some even have a core unit where you gain the industry safety licensing required to work such as a White Card for Building and Construction worksites. Work placement is also a requirement of many pre-apprenticeships and the strike rate is high for getting a job with your work placement host, should you impress them with your work ethic and aptitude.

Pre-apprenticeship courses also provide the basic tool and equipment knowledge for work. 

Ask any tradie about the old joke played on apprentices being sent to the hardware store to buy a left handed hammer - this won’t be you with an entry-level qualification under your belt!

OPTION 3: Pick up a skill set for a quick entry to a job

A skill set is like a qualification broken into a smaller, bite-size chunk and made into a short course. 

For this reason skill sets are also called ‘micro-qualifications’ as they offer a specific package of skills that are valuable to a business. They are ideal not just because being a shorter course means they are faster and more affordable to achieve, but because they target skills employers want. 

South Metropolitan TAFE offers dozens of skill sets across industries such as beauty, construction, maritime, business and computing, engineering and horticulture, to name just a few. Our skill sets courses run regularly throughout the year and sometimes are even offered online, at night or on weekends to suit busy lifestyles. Some skill sets are designed to be studied towards the full qualification, so if you don’t have the ability to study a diploma  right away, you can pick up a skill set now, pick another up later, and keep studying in phases until you are ready to graduate with the qualification.

Because skill sets are packaged to be a ready-made skill, you can also complete a skill set and use that to boost your chances with an employer. It may make a world of difference between you and another job seeker!

This article is part one of a series of four blogs to help guide students, career advisors and parent/guardians to navigate the journey to becoming an apprentice or trainee. If you've found this article beneficial, you should read the next!

If at any time you want assistance in working through your options towards an apprenticeship or traineeship study pathway, contact our Jobs and Skills Centres for an appointment.