4:46 PM, 19 Feb 2020

When taking on a new apprentice or trainee, one of the most important things to consider is that their relevant work experience may be limited (if they have any at all). Nonetheless, they can still provide an important and valuable contribution to your organisation from the outset of their apprenticeship. Some companies hire apprentices and trainees as a means of keeping their company skills up-to-date, as their training can incorporate skills that are currently lacking in a given team. However, this can only happen if employers give apprentices and trainees the opportunity to fully participate and if they value the contributions that they make.

Supervisor expectations: what to expect

When hiring new apprentices and trainees, employers commit to providing them with the help needed to improve their skills and to qualify them. It's important that employers demonstrate and explain how to complete tasks to the required standard, and that they help their apprentices to achieve such standards. To do this, a great deal of supervision is needed. Furthermore, the supervisor must understand the importance of training the apprentices through a Registered Training Organisation. 

Being an effective supervisor of trainees and apprentices is not always an easy task. When there are multiple candidates for the position of supervisor, the following factors can be considered to determine who is the best suited to the role: 

  • The candidate must have the patience to train new workers, a majority of whom are likely to be young and have little experience in the job
  • The candidate must be able to explain tasks clearly and be willing to do so multiple times
  • The candidate must be able to observe and assess the performance of the apprentice

Important information

The Importance of Inductions

When hiring new employees, it's crucial to give them a thorough induction to the workplace, relevant sectors and their job requirements. They must understand the values and work practices of the company, their role as an employee and how to ensure the safety of themselves and their workmates.

Although several different topics can be addressed during the induction process, the following aspects are perhaps the most important; the need to wear protective clothing,the safe use of equipment, working hours and the introduction of staff members with whom the apprentices/trainees will be working most closely with. The training plan for the formal training process should also be discussed with the apprentices and trainees. 

Moreover, as is the case for all new employees, information such as the apprentice's tax file number, superannuation information and bank account details must be obtained by the employer. 

For more information on all the topics that must be addressed with new apprentices and trainees during the induction process, see the Induction Checklist provided by the Fair Work Ombudsman.



The key objective of mentoring is to improve the apprentice's skills and to build their character. Mentors must invest sufficient time in training them to do their job. They must also show an interest in their work-life and personal development.

For companies who invest sufficient resources into mentoring trainees and apprentices, the completion rates tend to be high. In bigger companies, staff members are often employed for that very purpose. However, even for smaller companies, plenty of resources are available to help them with developing their mentoring processes or to provide them with access to support from outside the company. 

It is also important that mentors recognise and understand how other colleagues treat the new apprentices/trainees. They have to ensure that all team members are treated equally and that no bullying takes place. This is particularly important for new employees. New apprentices/trainees must be given sufficient opportunities to talk about any work-related issues that they are facing, and this is crucial for maintaining a happy working environment. 

More information can be found at:
•    Providing social support for apprentices: a good practice guide

Young People in your Business

Many apprentice supervisors have commented on the lack of effort made by young people to learn the skills of the new job. Furthermore, many complain that young apprentices are too attached to their mobile phones and more focused on their lives outside of work.

The essence of being young is often easily forgotten. Young people tend to be more impulsive, more likely to take risks and often act before considering the consequences. These habits tend to improve with age. Often, having an in-depth discussion with the young person can be very effective in improving the issue.  

Work relationships can be greatly improved if supervisors invest enough time in trying to understand their younger workers. Respect must be mutual, and a supervisor can earn the respect of their new apprentices and trainees by trying to understand them. 

The Employer's Guide to Employing Young People by the Fair Work Ombudsman is a great resource to use here as a starting point. 

Workplace Health and Safety Legislation

Everybody wants to feel safe in their workplace, and everyone is entitled to return from work unharmed at the end of the day.

It is therefore vital that you understand the Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) laws and that you put processes and practices into place which can guarantee the safety of all employees. The risks of harm or work-related incidents must be reduced as much as possible.  

In terms of workplace safety, bullying and harassment, apprentices have the same rights as all other employees.

Since apprentices tend to be young and lacking in experience, employers must pay special attention to workplace safety issues. In some workplaces, there has historically been a culture of gently bullying of apprentices.

It is crucial that employers pay attention to such issues and that they continually remind staff that bullying will not be accepted in the workplace.

Furthermore, apprentices and trainees are not just new to the company but are often new to the industry itself. They may, therefore, need additional advice or guidance, particularly if they are required to work with hazardous equipment. Restrictions are frequently put in place regarding the types of work that apprentices are allowed to perform during each training year. These restrictions will be explained to you in more depth by your training provider.

More information can be found at: 
•    Australian Human Rights Commission - Workplace discrimination, harassment and bullying
•    Safe Work Australia

Giving Feedback

To make sure that new apprentices understand your company practices and procedures, it is important to ask them for feedback. There are effective (and not-so-effective) ways of going about this. 

It is important to ensure that any negative feedback is kept confidential. The reason for seeking feedback ought to be to identify areas for improvement. If you are using it as a way to air grievances, then you may wish to wait to provide the feedback until you feel able to address the issue calmly.

More information can be found at:
•    Managing under performance
•    Improving staff performance through feedback
•    7 ways to give valuable and constructive feedback to staff

Dealing with issues and difficulties

There may be times when trainees and apprentices face challenging situations. This is normal for any employee. For example, the apprentice may be experiencing problems relating to drugs or alcohol, or other problems in their personal life. The problems could impact their working life in a number of ways, such as causing absenteeism, insufficient performance or issues with workplace relationships.

In many workplaces, procedures are in place to manage such issues when they arise. These tend to be the same for apprentices and trainees as they are for all other staff members. The Apprenticeship Network Provider in charge of the placement can offer assistance for employers having problems with apprentices that cannot be addressed internally. Furthermore, your Group Training Organisation (if you are signed up with them) can help with addressing workplace issues and they often have access to external support sources which they can provide for you. 

For any support relating to issues outside of work, you can contact the Registered Training Organisation (RTO) in charge of delivering the course work. This can help to keep apprentices focused on their training programme. 

In cases where the organisations highlighted above are unable to resolve the problems that you face, you may contact the State Training Authority of that state in which you are located. This organisation can provide Apprenticeship Field Officers to assist both you and your apprentice. 

For certain apprentices, especially those who live alone, finances are often an issue. In cases like this, there is a long-established Australian website called Money Smart (developed by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)) which can be consulted. Their mission is to offer important and easy-to-understand information for Australian citizens.  On this website, you can find teaching resources specifically designed to help instructors of apprenticeships and traineeships.

More information can be found at: