A TRADE qualification is a ticket to a full and varied career, and brings with it opportunities to work as a contractor around the country and overseas, or to take the next step and start your own business.
The stereotype of a carpenter or plumber as the definitive tradie is an outdated one - tradespeople work in a range of industries, from construction and mining to hospitality and defence, with an equally large range of roles and specialisations available by sector.
While numbers have since stabilised, over the past 12 months the number of apprenticeship and traineeship commencements saw a sharp downward trend, the result - in part - of continued policy and funding changes at the federal level.
Chief executive officer of the Australian Council for Private Education and Training Claire Field said the new government needed to make clear commitments to supporting Australian apprentices and trainees to ensure a steady supply of skilled, work-ready tradespeople.
"Over the last two years of the Rudd-Gillard government, there was a series of ad hoc changes to policy, funding and financial support for the apprenticeship system," Ms Field said.
"Collectively these changes have devastated the apprenticeship and traineeship system and had a dramatic and destabilising impact on the number of people signing up to an apprenticeship or traineeship.
"At a time of rising unemployment, a modest amount of support to the apprenticeship system is an immediate imperative to allow it to once again attract new starters and retain those already in the system.
"We call on the government to genuinely engage with all parts of the sector so the apprenticeship system can continue to produce the highly skilled workers that our economy desperately needs."
Ms Field said the government had announced new interest-free trade support loans of up to $20,000 for apprentices. If you want to sign on for an apprenticeship, consider what you enjoy doing and where your interests lie - you want a trade that you're passionate about.
Talk to friends, family, people in the industry or phone Apprenticeships Info on 1800 210 210.