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The Landscape Apprentice

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Updated: February 26, 2019

Traditionally, workplace training was primarily conducted by way of an apprenticeship; the master and apprentice arrangement being long held as the best approach to training.

Since times of antiquity this arrangement has served as a means of handing down the skills and craft to the younger generation, ensuring stewardship of time-honoured traditions in the trades. Landscapers have embraced the tradition of apprenticeships and now more so than ever it is imperative that employers both large and small foster the stewardship of the skills of the landscape profession, but not just through the formal arrangement of training apprentices.

Vocational skills can be obtained through Australian Apprenticeships and provide employers with an avenue for timely and affective training by way of the nationally recognised training package qualifications and competencies that can be tailored to the individual needs of an organisation. Greater flexibility in the training arrangements of apprentices has made it simpler and easier for prospective employers to engage an apprentice and build their competence in workplace skills both on and off the job.

The responsibilities of employing an apprentice should however be considered fully before signing up to an apprenticeship agreement. Employing an apprentice is a serious responsibility for both the employer and the apprentice. As an employer you have a duty to ensure that you provide appropriate work tasks and opportunities for your apprentice to develop and enhance the skills of the trade. The apprentice has a duty to work to the best of their capability and to learn the skills and knowledge required to become a competent tradesperson.

Emphasis needs to be placed on the training that takes place on the job. The duration of off-the-job training in a four-year apprenticeship accounts for approximately only 10 per cent of the total time of the apprenticeship. This part of the training is designed to enhance the skills learnt on the job and is in no way a substitute for lack of workplace training. Employers need to take responsibility and implement a structured training program on the job that will assist in skills development.

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Apprentices are not cheap labour, treat them well and you will retain highly qualified and skilled personnel in your business. It is also in your best interest and that of the industry that apprentices are trained well, in order to maintain the high professional standards expected of the industry. If your apprentice leaves your organisation on conclusion of the apprenticeship, you can hold your head high in the knowledge that you have trained another operator dedicated to upholding the professional standards of the landscape industry. If you value your staff, invest in their training.

Should you be considering employing an apprentice contact your local Australian Apprenticeship Centre by calling 13 38 73. With over 300 centres nationally they can provide you with a seamless transition through the process of establishing an apprenticeship.

Training Providers

The traditional training conducted by TAFE colleges across the nation is no longer the only avenue for accessing workplace training and assessment. The type of training that fits your business structure can be negotiated with the RTO of your choice. The rise in the number of Registered Training Organisations has opened competition in the training market providing a greater degree of user choice in spending your training dollars. The National Training Information Service website can provide you with a comprehensive list of Registered Training Organisations in your state or territory at www.ntis.gov.au. Many landscape industry associations have established long standing relationships with RTOs and can supply their members with contact details of preferred training providers.

A Sweet Deal

Detailed labour market research conducted by the Australian Government has identified several trade areas where the Australian workforce is currently experiencing a skills shortage and landscape gardeners are identified on the National Skills Needs List (NSNL). Employers are eligible to receive a range of incentives and benefits from employing an apprentice in trades identified on the NSNL, which can include payments ranging from $750 up to $3000 depending on a range of criteria. The types of incentives that may apply include:

  • Commencement Incentive
  • Recommencement Incentive
  • Completion Incentive
  • Support for Adult Australian Apprentices
  • Rural and Regional Skills Shortage Incentive
  • Nominated Equity Groups Commencement Incentive
  • Group Training Organisations Certificate II Completion Incentive
  • Declared Drought Areas Commencement and Completion Incentives
  • Mature Aged Workers Commencement and Completion Incentives
  • Australian School-based Apprenticeships Commencement and Retention Incentives

Under the Australian Apprenticeships Incentives Programme, an Australian apprentice undertaking a Certificate III or IV qualification that leads to an occupation listed on the National Skills Needs List may be eligible to attract the following employer incentives and personal benefits:

  • Support for Adult Australian Apprentices
  • Trade Support Loans
  • Rural and Regional Skills Shortage Incentive

For a complete list of details and incentives available to employers contact your Australian Apprenticeship Support Network Provider in your region.

Closing The Gap

The NSW Government has recently announced further incentive under the NSW Government fee-free apprenticeship initiative. This initiative applies to NSW apprentices that commenced their training on or after July 1, 2018 and may be eligible for fee-free training. For more information go to vet.nsw.gov.au for eligible apprentices there will be no requirement to pay the fee.

The Queensland Government also provides additional incentives to employers who employ an apprentice. Workcover Queensland will offer employers a reduction on their premium if they employ an apprentice. The discount will be applied by removing the apprentice wages from the employer’s premium calculation. Queensland employers may also be eligible for a payroll tax exemption for the wages paid to their apprentices and trainees.

Contact the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network provider in your state or territory for a comprehensive list of incentives as eligibility criteria apply and in some cases are State specific.

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Sharing The Load

Employing an apprentice is a serious commitment and it takes time to get the mix right. Group Training Organisations (GTO) can assist employers by employing apprentices and pacing them with host employers. GTOs complete all the tasks of selection and recruitment of apprentices, managing wages, workers compensation and other payroll requirements. They also take responsibility of on and off the job training and provide support to ensure the success and completion of the apprenticeship. Apprentices can be rotated between employers providing greater skills development and can be particularly important to small and medium sized businesses that otherwise see committing to an apprenticeship as too risky, or perhaps lack the resources to manage an apprenticeship.

Passing The Torch

Every landscape tradesperson was once afforded an opportunity as an apprentice to learn the craft of landscaping. It’s now time to pay it forward. Employ an apprentice and you are providing much more than just an opportunity to a young person, you will reap the benefits of building on the age-old tradition of handing the skills of the trade from master to apprentice and in doing so, establishing a legacy and consolidating your professional reputation.