Apprentices in the building and construction industry

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The webinar will be held on 24 May 2024 at 3pm AEST.

For more information and to register, visit our Webinars page.

Find out about entitlements for apprentices working in the building and construction industry.

Starting an apprenticeship

An apprentice is an employee who has signed a training contract with a registered training authority (RTO).

A full-time apprenticeship can take 3 to 4 years to complete. An apprentice will be trade qualified when they complete their apprenticeship.

Often a training contract will also be signed by the employer who is taking on the apprentice. This is because employers also have obligations, including:

  • providing a minimum amount of hours each week
  • completing on-site training
  • covering certain expenses in the apprenticeship.

There are no special rules for trainees working in building and construction. You can find more general information about trainees by visiting Apprentices and trainees.

Tip: Download our guide to starting an apprenticeship

Prefer a single guide to apprenticeships?

Download our free Guide to starting an apprenticeship Guide to starting an apprenticeship for information and advice on apprenticeships. It includes practical tips and a checklist you can complete.

School-based apprentices

A school-based apprentice is a secondary school student who is starting their trade qualification while completing their high school education.

A training contract is signed and lodged the same way as full-time apprentices but will be over a longer duration. The apprentice will work part-time for the time they are still enrolled in high school.

When they graduate high school, they can continue their apprenticeship in a full-time capacity.

Example: Progression for school-based apprentice

Jasmine is a student about to commence year 11 at her high school. She wants to become a carpenter after school ends but still wants to receive her high school certificate.

Jasmine speaks to her school and gets their permission to start a school-based apprenticeship.

Jasmine is permitted to complete her off-site training at her school as well take normal classes. She also starts working for a small building company to get her on-site hours.

During high school, Jasmine is only doing her apprenticeship part-time so will only progress one year of her apprenticeship during her final 2 years at high school.

When Jasmine graduates, she will be able to continue her apprenticeship on a full-time basis, starting as a 2nd year apprentice.

School-based apprentices need to have the approval and support of their:

  • school
  • parent or guardian (in most cases).

Off the job training will be delivered by an RTO. For example, a TAFE or a school, if they are authorised to provide training.

Training can be done a few hours a week or in a compressed period as block release training.

Paid employment can be done during or outside school hours. The number of required hours, and when paid employment takes place, will depend on the:

  • needs of the employer
  • rules in each state or territory
  • industry or trade.

School-based apprentices get the same entitlements as other apprentices on a pro-rata basis depending on the hours they work.

Working a trial period

Employers may want to have a trial period for a potential apprentice. For example, before entering a training contract between the apprentice and an RTO.

The time spent working with the employer prior to commencing the apprenticeship may be able to be counted towards the apprenticeship.

If the employee doesn’t commence an apprenticeship, they will be entitled to the full rate of pay based on the work they were doing.

Example: Employee not commencing an apprenticeship

Mahood runs a small building company with 10 employees who are a mix of qualified tradespersons and apprentices.

In the past, Mahood has taken on apprentices that haven’t been a good fit for his business.

Because of this, Mahood likes to give potential apprentices an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to work in the industry before signing them up for an apprenticeship.

Mahood is considering hiring Rob, an 18-year-old high-school leaver, to be a first-year apprentice. Over the summer period after school finished Mahood brings him over for a limited period.

During this time, Mahood pays Rob as a Level 1 construction worker as they are doing basic labouring duties.

Once Rob is signed up with an RTO as an apprentice, Mahood begins to pay them the Stage 1 apprentice pay rate.

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Training

Training contracts usually require off-the-job training or attendance at trade school, such as TAFE. The employer can’t prevent the apprentice from attending off-site training.

Time spent in off-the-job training and assessment counts as time worked. This means that an apprentice gets their normal pay and accrues their leave entitlement.

Apprentices get their allowances when attending trade school, except for the travel fares and distant work payment.

Example: Apprentice attending off-the-job training

Gavin is a full-time apprentice carpenter. He attends TAFE once a week and works with his employer on the construction site 4 days a week.

Gavin gets his full-time apprentice pay each week. This includes the time he spends in off-the-job training at TAFE.

Block release training

Some RTOs will require apprentices to attend block-release training. This is a period of condensed off-site training that may require an apprentice to attend trade school or TAFE for several days or weeks in a row.

This is common where an RTO is not within a reasonable travelling distance for the apprentice to attend on a weekly basis.

Employers may be responsible for covering the travel expenses of an apprentice who is attending block release training. This is paid using the same method as the Living away from home allowance.

Example: Attendance at block release training

Chen is a carpentry apprentice working in far north Queensland.

Chen is currently in his 1st year and has to complete block release training at TAFE in order to move to 2nd year.

Chen’s closest TAFE is in Bundaberg, which is 3 hours from his hometown.

Because it’s too far to reasonably commute to each day, Chen’s employer is required to cover excess costs while Chen attends TAFE in Bundaberg. These include reasonable excess costs of:

  • the total cost of reasonable transportation
  • accommodation costs (where necessary)
  • reasonable expenses including meals

This payment applies instead of the living away from home distant work allowance.

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Pay

Apprentices are paid a percentage of the full-time rate of pay for an employee who is trade qualified in the field in which they are completing their apprenticeship.

The percentage is based on the current stage of their apprenticeship. It increases as they progress through each stage.

There are special rules on the minimum wage for school-based apprentices and adult apprentices covered by the Building and Construction Award.

An adult apprentice is 21 years or older at the time they sign their contract of training.

School-based apprentices

School-based apprentices get the same minimum rate as other apprentices. School-based apprentices get paid and additional 25% of the hours they work on-site. The additional 25% compensates for time spent in off-the-job training.

Example: Payment for off-the-job training

Leon is a school-based apprentice currently in year 12.

As part of his apprenticeship, Leon does one day a week (8 hours) with his employer on-site.

Leon is paid for 25% (2 hours) of his weekly hours as compensation for his time spent in training offsite at school.

The 2 hours are paid at his normal rate of pay.

Adult apprentices

An adult apprentice working for the employer before entering into their apprenticeship can’t be paid a reduced minimum wage. Learn more about these rules at: Adult apprentice pay in the Building and Construction Award.

Tip: Use our Pay and Conditions Tool

Calculate adult apprentice pay rates using our free Pay and Conditions Tool.

Prefer a single pay guide? Download the Building and Construction Award pay guide from our Pay guides page.

Example: Turning 21 during an apprenticeship

Minh turns 21 on 30 July.

He signs an apprenticeship contract on 24 July.

Minh is not an adult apprentice as he was 20 years old when he signed his training contract.

Progression

There are 2 ways an apprentice can progress through the pay points of an apprenticeship:

Time-based wage progression

An employee gets time-based wage rises after they have completed their 12 months at the current apprenticeship level.

An apprentice covered by an award or registered agreement which uses time-based progression is entitled to progress to the next year of the apprenticeship, regardless of their progress through the training credits.

Competency-based wage progression

The Building and Construction Award allows apprentices to move up a pay point when they have achieved the competencies for the apprenticeship stage. This means that they can move to the next stage before completing 12 months.

Example: Competency-based progression

Anna is currently 8 months into her 2nd year of a painting apprenticeship.

Anna has been doing high quality work on-site that has been noticed by her employer, Liam.

Liam tells Anna that the quality of her work is what he would expect of a 3rd year.

Anna chats to Liam about advancing in her apprenticeship. They agree that she can the approach her RTO about advancing her progression.

The RTO then organises for Anna to complete the assessments to allow her to progress to 3rd year, which she passes.

Anna then commences the 3rd year of her apprenticeship early.

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Allowances and expenses

Apprentices in the building and construction industry get the same type of allowances as other employees. The allowance rate may be different depending on the allowance.

Apprentices get a percentage of the following allowances if they’re entitled:

  • lift allowance
  • fare and travel pattern allowance
  • distant work.

The percentage depends on their year of apprenticeship.

Fares and travel patterns

Apprentices get a fares and travel allowance the same as other employees required to work on-site in the building and construction industry.

To work out allowance rates under the Building and Construction Award, use our Pay and Conditions Tool.

Example: Apprentice travelling to work at a construction site

Phong is a first-year air-conditioning apprentice. He doesn’t have his licence yet so he can’t drive himself to work.

Phong’s boss arranges for his workmate, Andrew, to pick him up from home as it’s on the way to the building site.

Phong doesn’t get the fares and travel pattern allowance as he gets a lift to work.

The work location for the following week changes and it’s no longer convenient for Andrew to give Phong a lift. Phong needs to catch public transport.

Phong gets the daily fares and travel pattern allowance when he needs to make his own way to and from the worksite.

Training costs

An employer must pay cover the apprentice’s training costs. This includes textbooks and any fees charged by the RTO.

An employer must reimburse an apprentice if the training costs were paid by them within:

  • 6 months of commencement of the apprenticeship or stage of the apprenticeship, or
  • 3 months of the commencement of training provided by the RTO.

An employer can pay the costs of any fees or textbooks directly to the RTO.

Tools and uniform

If an employer requires an apprentice to wear it, apprentices are entitled to reimbursement for the costs of any:

  • uniforms, or
  • protective equipment.

Apprentices are also entitled to receive a tool allowance as part of their hourly rate of pay. This is to cover the standard tools required of the trade.

For any specialist tools required for use on-site, the employer must either:

  • by agreement, reimburse the employee for the costs of the tools, or
  • provide the tools.

If an employer provides the tools on-site, the employee will not be entitled to reimbursement if they buy their own.

Example: Apprentice buys their own tools

Mike is a carpentry apprentice currently in his 3rd year.

Mike’s employer is a medium sized builder. They have a well-equipped tool shop that has all the tools required to complete projects.

Now in his third year, Mike has been researching different tool brands and thinks he wants to start building his own tool kit he can take to TAFE and use at home on the weekends.

Mike speaks to his boss about a request to be reimbursed for tools. They explain they can’t agree to the request because the business already has the same tools he wants for free, just in a different brand.

Because the tools were provided for use by the employer, Mike isn’t entitled to any reimbursement if he buys his own.

Check other allowance entitlements in the building and construction at Allowances building and construction.

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Overtime and shiftwork

Apprentices can work overtime and shiftwork in certain circumstances.

Overtime and shiftwork pay is calculated on their usual hourly rate. This rate includes their base rate allowances, such as industry allowance.

Our Pay and Conditions Tool calculates pay rates and penalties, including the Building and Construction Award.

Apprentices can’t work alone on overtime or during shiftwork. These hours can’t prevent an apprentice from attending their scheduled off-the-job training (for example, trade school), unless in an emergency.

Apprentices under the age of 18 can’t be made to work overtime unless they choose to.

Tip: Download the Record My Hours app

Sometimes it's hard to keep paper records on-site. Our Record My Hours app makes it quick and easy for employees to record and track the hours they work.

The app lets you:

  • add rosters to a calendar
  • receive notification reminders about upcoming shifts
  • take photos of information that belongs to an employee, like their own pay slips.

It's free and available in 18 languages.

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Other entitlements for apprentices

Leave

Apprentices get the same leave entitlements, including sick leave and annual leave as other employees.

Apprentices generally don’t get long service leave. Their time working as an apprentice will count as service if they:

  • were employed immediately before their apprenticeship, or
  • continue to be employed after their apprenticeship ends.

Tip: Use our Pay and Conditions Tool

Calculate leave entitlements and balances using our Pay and Conditions Tool. This includes for:

  • annual leave
  • annual leave loading
  • sick and carer's leave.

Making up for lost time

Apprentices are required to work an additional day for each day of absence during a year of their apprenticeship.

Apprentices won’t need to have make up days if the absence is during a period of paid leave. For example, annual leave or sick and carer’s leave.

Time lost during a period of temporary shutdown (including end of year holidays) isn’t counted as an absence the apprentice has to make up.

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Ending an apprenticeship

There’s no requirement for an employer to continue employing an apprentice after their training contract has ended.

The same notice of termination rules under the National Employment Standards apply to ending an apprentice’s employment.

Apprentices are usually employed on a training contract. This makes them a fixed-term contract employee with their employment:

  • set for a length of time, or
  • ending on the completion of the apprenticeship.

Staying on with the employer

When an apprentice completes their apprenticeship, they may agree with their employer to continue their employment.

An apprentice who stays on after completing their apprenticeship will be a trade qualified employee. This means that will be entitled to be paid accordingly.

An apprentice’s leave entitlements (such as annual leave) will carry over if there’s no break in employment between the apprenticeship and becoming a permanent employee. Learn more in our Library article: Re-employment after termination & continuous service.

Notice of termination

If an apprentice’s employment is terminated by resignation or dismissal during their apprenticeship, normal rules for notice apply. Read up on these rules at Notice and final pay.

Time spent in apprenticeship is counted for calculating notice period, if the apprentice:

  • continues to be employed after their apprenticeship ends, or
  • is re-employed within 6 months after their apprenticeship ends

Redundancy

Apprentices don’t get redundancy pay.

If an apprentice becomes a permanent employee, their time as an apprentice will count towards calculating their redundancy pay if:

  • their employment continues after their apprenticeship or they are reemployed within 6 months of their apprenticeship ending
  • they're employed for at least another year.
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Other help for apprentices

Apprentices are often entering the workforce or their chosen industry for the first time.

Because of this, apprentices may not be as knowledgeable about workplace entitlements as those that have been in the industry for a longer time.

Tip: Use our free tools

We have free tools to help apprentices understanding their workplace rights and responsibilities:

Contacting another organisation

Apprentices can also find additional help from their:

Tools and resources

Related information

Have a workplace problem?

Problems can happen in any workplace. If you have a workplace problem, we have tools and information to help you resolve it.

Check out our Fixing a workplace problem section for practical information about:

  • working out if there is a problem
  • speaking with your employer or employee about fixing the problem
  • getting help from us if you can't fix the problem.
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