What is the difference between an apprenticeship and a traineeship?

Apprenticeships and traineeships are types of formal training arrangements that combine work with study for a qualification. The type of qualification that you want and the industry you want to work in will determine whether you need to complete an apprenticeship or traineeship. There are also other types of training arrangements such as university work placements and internships that are differently regulated.


An apprenticeship is a legally binding training arrangement between an employer and an apprentice that combines structured training with paid employment.

Apprenticeships may take up to four years to complete, with training taking place both at the workplace and with a training organisation such as TAFE. Upon completion, apprentices become a qualified tradesperson.

Apprentices are trained in a skilled trade such as:

  • hairdresser
  • chef
  • electrician
  • plumber
  • cabinet-maker
  • automotive technician
  • carpenter.


A traineeship is a structured training and paid employment arrangement that involves a legally binding contract between the employer and trainee.

Traineeships vary in length from 12 months to three years to complete. Upon successful completion, a trainee will receive a certificate qualification in their chosen vocational industry or occupation.

Trainees are trained in vocational industries or occupations such as:

  • office administration
  • information technology
  • hospitality and tourism.

What are the general rights and obligations of an apprentice or trainee?

As an apprentice or trainee, you are considered an employee and will receive the same entitlements as other employees.

Apart from your obligations as an employee, you will also have additional obligations under your training agreement including:

  • attending training
  • working towards the qualification set out in your training agreement
  • keeping records.

There are further responsibilities if you are a school-based apprentice or trainee that you need to consider.

You can find out more on the Australian Apprenticeships website.

What are the general rights and obligations of your employer?

Generally, your employer should:

  • ensure that your training contract is signed by you and your employer within 14 days of the start of the apprenticeship or traineeship
  • take all reasonable steps to ensure that the training contract is given to the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network (AASN) provider within 28 days of the start of your apprenticeship or traineeship
  • negotiate a training plan with you and the training organisation within three months of the start of your apprenticeship or traineeship
  • deliver training as agreed in your training plan
  • provide, or arrange to provide, the facilities and range of work as specified in the training plan and ensuring you are adequately supervised by a qualified person
  • pay your wages and entitlements as specified in the relevant modern award or agreement
  • release you from work and pay your wages to attend any off-the-job training, including assessment as provided for in your training plan (if applicable)
  • discharge all lawful obligations, including those relating to workplace health and safety
  • at reasonable intervals of not more than three months, update your training record
  • negotiate a training plan with you within 28 days where your current training plan has ended due to change of training organisation or transfer of training contract.

Further responsibilities that relate specifically to school-based apprenticeships and traineeships should also be considered.

For additional information on rights and obligations of employers, contact Apprenticeships Info on 1800 210 210.

Your training contract and what it means

To commence an apprenticeship or traineeship, you and your employer must sign and register a training contract with the Department of Education and Training.

A training contract includes the express terms and conditions of the traineeship or apprenticeship and obligations of both parties to the agreement. Some of the terms of the training contract may include:

  • probationary period  – generally 90 days for apprenticeships and between 30 to 60 days for traineeships
  • nominal term of the training contract (set in accordance with the department’s time frames for the particular industry)
  • notice periods
  • position and duties
  • training costs – who is responsible for these
  • hours of work
  • remuneration
  • requirements with respect to confidential information.

As it is a legally binding agreement, make sure that you understand and check the information on it before you sign it.

If you are under 18 years of age, your parent or guardian must provide their consent to the apprenticeship or traineeship. Once you turn 18, your parent or guardian ceases to be a legal party to the training contract and is no longer responsible for your apprenticeship or traineeship.

I was not provided a training contract, what do I do now?

If a training contract is not completed, signed and registered, the traineeship or apprenticeship will not be recognised and you will not obtain a qualification.

If this happens, you should obtain legal advice or contact Apprentices Info on 1800 210 210.

Terminating training agreement including transferring to a new employer

Most traineeships and apprenticeships are intended to run for the full term of the training contract which usually expires when the qualification is achieved. Changing employer is not straightforward and many employers will attempt to deter apprentices and trainees from moving around. It is, however, possible to transfer your apprenticeship or traineeship from one employer to another. You should get information from the AASN provider or the department prior to the proposed change. You may need permission from the employer named on the original training contract.

Labour hire arrangements

A labour hire arrangement exists when a labour hire agency or company on-hires individual workers to a ‘host employer’, who is the client or customer of the labour hire agency. Labour hire agencies are also sometimes called Group Training Organisations when they are working with apprentices and trainees.

When an apprentice or trainee is hired through a labour hire arrangement, normally the labour hire company is the employer and the place of work is the ‘host’. An employee may be placed with one host for a long time or with a number of different hosts over the course of their employment.

It is important to clearly identify who your employer is because your rights may be different depending on the structure of your employment. Sometimes the responsibilities associated with employment (such as pay and insurance) belong with the labour hire employer whereas the responsibilities associated with training rest with the host.

Disputes about training contracts

The newly created Training Ombudsman is a Queensland-based dispute resolution service that can take complaints, and investigate and help mediate disputes between apprentices and trainees and their training service provider.

Some types of disputes about training contracts, including if the contract is cancelled by the department, can be taken to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission. In most cases, if there has been a major decision affecting your traineeship or apprenticeship and you don’t agree with that decision, you should get legal advice. If there are appeal options, the time limit for taking action may be as short as 21 days from the date of the decision being appealed.

Apprentice pay

Your employer can only pay you apprentice pay rates if you have a registered training contract.

Your rate of pay will depend on how long your apprenticeship is for and how much training you have completed.

For further information on pay if you are an apprentice, use the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Pay Calculator to calculate pay rates for all apprentices including:

  • adult apprentices (an apprentice who is 21 years or older when they start their apprenticeship)
  • school-based apprentices (an apprentice who still goes to high school while completing the apprenticeship).

If you are covered by an Enterprise Agreement, check the pay rates in the agreement and the modern award. You can search the Fair Work Commission’s website for a copy of the Enterprise Agreement.

After you have completed your apprenticeship, you will be paid the relevant tradesperson’s pay rate.

Your employer is responsible for ensuring that you are paid correctly in accordance with the relevant modern award and the most up-to-date changes.

Trainee pay

Pay rates for full-time, part-time and school-based trainees are found in most Modern Awards in the National Training Wage Schedule. Use the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Pay Calculator to calculate trainee rates.

If you are covered by an Enterprise Agreement, check the rates in the agreement. You can search the Fair Work Commission’s website for a copy of the Enterprise Agreement.

Your employer cannot pay you at a trainee rate just because you are new to a job or are being trained in a new task. Your employer can only pay you trainee pay rates when you have completed a formal training contract with your employer and are signed up with a Registered Training Organisation (e.g. at TAFE).

Payment for time spent in training

You will be paid for any time spent attending training or assessment related to your traineeship unless you are:

  • a school-based trainee
  • a part-time trainee whose training is wholly off the job.

Unpaid training and apprenticeships (and when your employer asks you to do volunteer work for them)

If there is a contract for employment between an employer and an employee then the employee must be paid for the work that they do for that employer.

Unpaid work can occur outside an employment relationship such as school-based work experience and volunteer work with a charity or not-for-profit organisation.

Occasionally an employer will wrongly consider work to be unpaid such as:

  • completing paperwork necessary for the job
  • work trials and ‘getting experience’
  • overtime
  • travel from one work location to another.

If you are being asked to work for your employer without payment you can complain to the Fair Work Ombudsman.