Project Details

A research project exploring the workplace experiences of first-year apprentices. A collaboration of Christchurch Polytechnic of Technology, Competenz and the Agriculture, Boating, Hairdressing, Building and Construction, Hospitality Standards and Joinery Industry Training Organisations (ITOs).


The aim of the project was to identify the factors that prompted people to enter and continue an apprenticeship.


The methodology had six key features.

  • Focus group meetings with pre-trade students and first-year apprentices.
  • Interviews with individual first year apprentices.
  • Interviews with apprentices who had decided to discontinue in the first half of 2010.
  • Questionnaire completed by all interviewees.
  • Questionnaire completed by employers of first-year apprentices who were interviewed.
  • Document review of induction information provided to apprentices.



Selena Chan

Project Leader

Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (now Ara Institute of Canterbury)

Dr Robyn Chandler

Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology
primary ITO

Tracey Shepherd

Agriculture ITO

Charles Hayward

Boating ITO

Loretta Garrow


Mary Kingsbury


Erica Cummings

Hairdressing ITO

Glen Keith

Hospitality Standards Institute

Deb Paul

Joinery ITO




$79,630.00 (excl GST)

$79,630.00 National Project Fund

Key Findings

General findings

  • The transition from school to apprenticeship, the journey from novice to trade worker, and the boundary crossing involved for adults to change from one occupation to another, all require skill acquisition, knowledge application, dispositional/attitudinal change, and transformation of vocational identity.
  • All these aspects of learning, change, and transformation require individual agency (choice and intrinsic motivation) and support from workplaces, trade workers, training providers and ITOs.
  • When apprentice agencies, ITO, and workplace support work together, industries that foster apprentices gain through the initiation of new, skilled, knowledgeable and innovative trade workers.
  • Apprentices need positive experiences to achieve better apprenticeship and qualification completions.

Specific findings

  • Individuals needed help to match their ‘vocational imagination’ with workplace realities.
  • Some apprentices who decided to discontinue experienced a mismatch between what they envisaged the apprenticeship would provide and what occurred in reality.
  • Support was required to help people establish a sense of belonging to a workplace.
  • Support from employers, family, ITOs, and training providers was crucial for apprentices’ resilience and could help prevent apprentices from discontinuing an apprenticeship.
  • Assistance was required to maintain engagement and momentum for apprentices to complete their apprenticeship.
  • Assistance included the need to extend recognition of skills acquisition beyond competency-based approaches, the provision of incentives to apprentices and support for apprentices’ vocational/occupational identity formation.

Key Recommendations

Information on the merits and realities of trades | Provide information to potential apprentices (and their supporters) of both the merits and realities of the trade/industry and workplace learning.

A sense of belonging | Provide opportunities for apprentices to establish a sense of belonging in the workplace.

Maintain engagement and momentum towards apprenticeship completion | Support apprentices to complete their apprenticeship through goal-setting, aligning objectives with vocational imagination, providing sufficient incentives and establishing a vocational identity.


Belonging, Becoming and Being: First-year Apprentices' Experiences in the Workplace

Download the report, Belonging, Becoming and Being: First-year Apprentices' Experiences in the Workplace by Selena Chan.
(PDF, 1 MB, 54-pages).

  • 20 October 2011
Read more


RESOURCE | Being An Apprentice

Download the resource, Being An Apprentice by Selena Chan.
(PDF, 489 KB, 4-pages).

  • 20 October 2011
Read more