Recently, we sat down with the CEO of Squad, Kellie Howard, to talk about what it’s like obtaining an apprenticeship or traineeship in today’s climate. We discussed the current challenges in the Australian Apprenticeships industry, how to overcome them, and what the future may have in store for apprentices and trainees.
Current challenges for apprentices and trainees
In her role as CEO of Squad, a Group Training Organisation (GTO) and Registered Training Organisation (RTO) based in Wodonga, Kellie has seen many apprentices and trainees go through their fair share of challenges in the last 12 months.
As Kellie points out, apprentices and trainees have had to overcome a lot of uncertainty, particularly in the face of an unprecedented pandemic. “Our Melbourne and Sydney offices saw a particularly big drop in the market,” Kellie says.
“However, all our Melbourne trainees have been reengaged, either with the host employer they were with or with a new host employer…it’s about being flexible and thinking outside the square,” she says.
Kellie and her team have endeavoured to support all their apprentices and trainees through the last 12 months in whatever way they can, assigning mentors and in some instances switching to part-time employment and training hours.
“If the past 12 months have taught our apprentices and trainees anything, it is to be willing to be open to change: that includes a change in training or working style,” she says.
For Kellie and her team, the flow on effect of this rapid change has appeared in the form of doubt.
“At the moment, I think the major challenges centre around doubt,” she explains. “That sense of stability is gone, and I suppose that’s coming out in a few different ways.”
Despite this lingering sense of doubt, Kellie is confident that taking on an apprenticeship or traineeship is a great option for those looking for a stable and rewarding career pathway.
Nothing to lose with an apprenticeship
Kellie has seen many young people struggling in the face of the uncertainty of the last 12 months. For Kellie, taking on an apprenticeship or traineeship can do a lot to alleviate a lot of the uncertainty many people are facing at this time.
“I think there’s a lot of pressure. Many young people are asking themselves questions like ‘Should I be committing myself to this?’, “Is it something I really want to do?’ or ‘Is this what I want to do for the rest of my life?” she says.
As Kellie has seen first-hand, the benefits of taking on an apprenticeship or traineeship can come with a suite of overwhelming benefits.
“Learning a skilled trade can have a lot of positives. You really have nothing to lose. An apprenticeship or traineeship provides you with the ability to earn while you learn. The support of a Group Training Organisation like Squad also provides you with better odds of finishing your qualification. The Pathways created are really endless.” She explains.
Getting job ready
Kellie has also seen her fair share of young people getting ready to enter the job market across all fields and industries. She shared a few pearls of wisdom she’s picked up in her time.
“The key golden rule for us is ‘answer your phone!'” she exclaims. As she explains, you never know if an unknown caller could be the employer you’ve reached out to for an opportunity.
“Also, make sure your personal details are correct. Have your key items in your resume: name, number, email address, what you’re interested in. Include some of your hobbies as well; it helps us talk to you and break down some barriers,” she says.
When it comes to the interview stage, Kellie also had some helpful words of advice.
“Don’t be afraid to take in some notes for your interview. What you’ve liked at school is important. For example, be sure to mention any academic awards you’ve received, any volunteering you’ve done or if you were great in sport. Don’t be afraid to put a personal spin on it.
This is your opportunity to sell yourself. Tell us what you’re good at. And if you’re unsure, ask someone who’s close to you,” she insists.
Kellie and her team also understand the challenges that can be associated with lining up referees, especially early in someone’s career.
“A lot of apprentices and trainees don’t have referees because it could be their first job. So, I would recommend a teacher. That could be someone you had a great relationship with, could be also a career advisor. Put them down, but make sure you ask them for their permission first. Let them know they might get a phone call if you’re on the hunt for a job or apprenticeship opportunity,” she explains.
Choosing the right career path for you
As Kellie and her team understand, choosing the right career path can feel like a daunting task. Her advice is to get informed by asking the right questions from a wide range of your close supporters.
“Don’t be afraid to ask the pressing questions in your mind. And ask lots of people. Start with your career advisor, talk to a TAFE, connect yourself to different people.
Also, do your research. Google different apprenticeships, Google ‘how do I become a ‘insert trade path here’. The Australian Apprenticeship Pathways website has a lot of options and is updated regularly with new traineeships coming in all the time.
There is so much around to help you,” she says.
For Kellie, it’s all about staying open to what’s out there, especially when it comes to skilled careers.
“I myself started as a trainee,” she explains. “In my experience, apprenticeships and traineeships are a brilliant way to start your career, and apply your learnings to your everyday working life.
The most important thing is not to give into the pressure of what other people want you to do – this is your choice. There’s no one type of person who is more suited to an apprenticeship or traineeship.
In general, we find that people who are more practically minded do very well in one. They also tend to have a real passion for something – that passion can help them to achieve really great results,” she says.
As Kellie explains, it’s important not to discount the pathways of apprenticeships and traineeships. There may be a few obstacles to overcome to find your dream career, but a big part of overcoming them is being open and flexible to trying new things and ways of thinking.
“Sit down with someone and ask how to get to your dream job. You can do anything. Don’t keep your options narrow. It’s limitless. We are limitless,” Kellie says.
Squad is a Group Training Organisation with offices in Wodonga, Melbourne and Sydney. They employ over 500 apprentices and trainees annually. Squad is also a Registered Training Organisation, providing training in Business, Retail and Agriculture.