AEN NSW/ACT Skills Conference Wrap

The Apprentice Employment Network NSW and ACT (AEN NSW/ACT) held their annual Skills Conference in mid-June. This year’s conference theme was Be Inspired, and true to its theme, attendees heard from a diverse and accomplished range of keynote speakers and panel sessions.

(Photo credit: AEN NSW & ACT Skills Conference)

Session highlights

  • Tony Morriss from Australian Super gave an economic update including international and Australian perspectives on current challenges and the possibility of a global recession
  • Scott Carlton-Tozer from MindFit at Work discussed how employers and intermediary organisations can better support the mental health of apprentices and trainees, while recognising the inherent psychosocial risks of apprenticeship arrangements
  • The VET Alumni panel inspired attendees with descriptions of how an apprenticeship or traineeship had shaped their careers and impacted on their lives.

Economic Update: Australian Super

The economic update from Australian Super gave attendees a useful international perspective on the current economic environment, along with discussing the Australian context.

Pressures in other regions can be very different to those in Australia, particularly across Asia and Europe where government responses differ to those in Australia. For example, interest rate rises such as those seen in Australia over recent months are not reflected in many Asian countries.

Some of the drivers of inflation include supply chain issues due to the war in Ukraine and the USA/China relationship, along with high commodity prices, and increased defence spending globally.

In Australia, while the unemployment rate is low, the labour force participation rate has not yet recovered to pre-Covid levels meaning that there are still significant numbers of people out of work.

Generative AI is seen by many as a major disruptor for work and employment, however, in economic circles this is seen as a good cost-saver, not for revenue increases or reducing competition risks. However, with the extremely fast pace of change in the tech sector, this may change rapidly and become a greater disruptor in the future.

Supporting the Mental Health of Apprentices and Trainees: MindFit at Work

Psychosocial safety is important for all businesses to consider as part of their workplace health and safety requirements, but also to support productive and happy employees. Scott discussed the range of excellent resources available to understand psychosocial safety that are available from the Australian Government at

While all employees should be supported by their employers, there are a number of additional risk factors that face apprentices and trainees that may not apply to other staff. This includes an implicit power imbalance within an apprenticeship or traineeship arrangement, and a lack of control over their own work, both due to the training nature of the role.

Psychosocial hazards, when combined with stress triggers within or external from the workplace, can trigger mental health issues. Aiming to provide a safe workplace with a minimum of hazards will help support staff to navigate triggers and maximise psychological safety.

Be Inspired: VET Alumni

Attendees were fortunate to hear from three fantastic graduate apprentices and trainees, in a panel session facilitated by Sharon Smith (CEO HVTC and NAEN Board Chair). The panel discussed how an Australian Apprenticeship had impacted their lives, and how they wish to inspire young people and career changers into an apprenticeship pathway.

Lucinda Shilcock discussed the fantastic support structures that helped her while undertaking her electrical apprenticeship, through her Group Training Organisation and at TAFE. She described her challenges with schooling, and with literacy and numeracy, which were overcome through the support provided by her TAFE trainers.

Joel Hartley completed two traineeships, starting with a Certificate III in Business Administration before specialising with a Certificate IV in Marketing and Communications. He described how his traineeship has continued to open new doors, including being selected to participate in the Today’s Skills Tomorrow’s Leaders program.

Megan Cox decided to do a higher apprenticeship in IT rather than going to university straight from school. She discussed how the integrated work and learning program allowed her to accelerate her learning, and gave her a strong basis for her next career move into HR where she has excelled.

It was very inspiring to hear from the panel on how apprenticeships and traineeships have changed the course of their lives and resulted in such positive, successful outcomes.

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