Apprentices and Trainees


If you are new to the construction industry as an apprentice or trainee, there are some things you need to know.

Apprentices and trainees have the same rights as other workers to a safe and healthy work environment and decent pay and conditions. The one significant difference is the contract of training you are employed under.

On this page, you will find out:

If you want to find out how other apprentices or trainees got into the construction industry and what they think of it, go to Member Stories first. To get a better idea of the range of jobs available in the construction industry, go to the Photo Gallery Jobs covered by the CFMEU.

What is a 'contract of training'? 

A contract of training is a legally binding agreement between you and your employer. You get certainty of employment and training in your chosen occupation. Your employer must provide you with on-the-job training, and let you go to off-the-job classroom training at a TAFE college or other approved training provider. In return, apprentice and trainee rates of pay are significantly lower than those of fully qualified tradespeople and skilled workers.

The CFMEU takes the view that those rates of pay should not be so low that they put young workers off taking up an apprenticeship or make it too hard for them to complete it because they cannot afford to live on such low rates. More.

There are three main types of contract of training in the construction industry. These are:

  1. The indentured apprenticeship (which is being phased out in favour of Modern Apprenticeships)

    This is a binding (generally four-year) agreement between an apprentice and his/her “master” or employer. The indenture system is hundreds of years old, and its great advantage is that it is almost impossible for the employer to cancel the contract of training. However, its lack of flexibility has meant that employers have increasingly moved away from “indenture” to the more flexible “trainee apprenticeship” or “Modern Apprenticeship”.
  2. The trainee apprenticeship or Modern Apprenticeship

    Increasingly, apprentices in the industry are being engaged under an apprentice traineeship or Modern Apprenticeship. This contract of training is less rigid than a traditional indenture, but is still more secure than the normal contract of employment. Most apprentices employed under a group apprenticeship scheme come under this model.
  3. The non-trade traineeship

    These traineeships are offered in areas that have not traditionally been classified as "trades". In the construction industry, there are trainees in areas such as plant operating (that is, operating heavy construction machinery), steel-fixing and materials handling (crane-related operations). Such traineeships lead to certificates or tickets in the particular skills. But the traineeship is generally shorter in duration than an apprenticeship.

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Your rights on the job as an apprentice or trainee 

These are some of your rights as an apprentice or trainee in the building and construction industry:

  • You have the right to a safe and healthy work environment and decent amenities (toilets, lunch room etc).
  • You have the right to join the Union and to be represented by Union officials.
  • You have the right to be trained, and not just used as cheap labour. Where it is a provision of your contract of training, the employer must release you for off-the-job training.
  • You have the right not to be victimised or 'bastardised' on the job. Sometimes the treatment of apprentices and trainees goes beyond a joke. If this is the case, the Union will stand up for you.
  • You have the right to basic industrial standards such as sick leave and holiday pay.
  • On unionised jobs, you may be entitled to additional payments such as site allowance, productivity allowance and redundancy pay.
  • If you have been underpaid, you have the same right to recover that money as any other worker.

If you are not being treated properly at work, you don't have to put up with it. Contact your local CFMEU Branch.

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How to join the CFMEU

If you are not already a member of the CFMEU, you should join up. Apprentices and trainees pay reduced memebrship rates and still enjoy the full benefits of belonging to the Union. As well as having the CFMEU represent your interests when it comes to wages and conditions, you will find that your Branch can help in other ways.

Some Branches have facilities for you to join online. Others will send you an application form on request.  Join the CFMEU today!

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Training options: 

Getting the right qualification

Training qualifications for the construction industry are grouped into what are called Training Packages. These cover 42 qualifications in the General Construction Sector, ranging from Certificate 1, up to Advanced Diploma. Each qualification has compulsory training units and elective units.

Once you know more about the Qualification you want, you can find a Training School that teaches the skills for that certificate.

To check out what Qualifications are available, go to the Construction and Property Industry Skills Council (CPISC) website, Qualifications for the General Construction Sector.  

To find out more about what a carpenter or crane operator or scaffolder does in construction, go to our Photo Gallery Jobs covered by the CFMEU.

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Finding an apprenticeship

There are plenty of ways to find an apprenticeship in the building and construction industry

Ask friends, family, people you know.

Lots of employers find the apprentice they want - and apprentices find the employer they want - by asking people they know.

Check out our Member Stories to hear how they found a job.

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Contact a Group Training Organisation

Group Training Organisations are the biggest employers of apprentices and trainees in Australia. The Group Training Organisation employs the apprentice for the whole apprenticeship, and hires them out for short or long periods to employers who don't have the capacity to employ their own apprentices.

Group training is handy for businesses that:

  • find it difficult to commit to employing an apprentice or trainee for the entire training period
  • have a narrow range of work, so cannot provide the range of experience required by the apprenticeship or traineeship
  • prefer an agent to manage their employment and training responsibilities eg, recruitment and payroll.

Group training is also handy for apprentices. You might work for several different employers, and so have a wider range of work experience.

Group Training Australia brings together all the Group Training Organisations in each state and territory. Find your local Group Training Organisation here.

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Training and assessment for adult workers

Nowadays, it's also easier for skilled people to have their competence recognised.

Your current competence can be assessed against the national industry competency standards.

You might get a nationally recognised certificate (at the trade level or higher) with little or no extra training. This doesn't just look good on your CV. It opens up new career opportunities for you and makes it easier to do more training.

Skills assessments are carried out by Registered Training Organisations (RTOs), including TAFEs and private providers. After assessing your skill levels, they can provide you with a Recognition of Prior Learning Certificate or recommend additional training to bring your skills up to national industry competency standards.

To find an RTO that provides skills assessment appropriate for your area of work and competence, check out the list of providers on the National Training Information Service website. Not all RTOs are registered skills assessors. So search the National Training Information Service website using the terms 'skills and assessors' to find the right RTO for you. The RTO will be able to tell you what areas of work their assessors cover and the fees charged.


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Contact your local CFMEU Training School

CFMEU Training Schools teach a range of Certificate Qualifications (for example, in rigging, scaffolding, fork-lift and crane operation), as well as OHS induction and higher OHS qualifications. Find you local CFMEU Training School here.


Download the CFMEU's 10 point plan for beating Australia's skill shortages.

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