A pipeline of skilled, smart tradies

The Australian Industry Trade College (AITC) believes that university is not the only pathway to success.

The college was founded in 2008 to support industry’s need for better-educated apprentices and trainees. It is, therefore, no surprise that their education program has been developed in deep consultation with industry.

AITC is an independent, co-educational school with five established Queensland campuses, and a sixth set to be opened in 2022.

Students complete their secondary schooling – years 10, 11 and 12 – with a heavy focus of work experience first.

Once each student firms up a career path, their goal is to transfer into a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship, with a Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE) under their belt.

AITC’s results are outstanding:

  • In 2020, 99% of students successfully gained their QCE, against the national average of 88%. 
  • Uniquely, 90% of these students are already signed-up in a full-time apprenticeship or traineeship upon completion – against the national average of 36% in the traditional school / VET pathway.

Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia (HVIA) CEO Todd Hacking has been developing a strong partnership with the AITC for the past two years. 

“Our initial interest was to try and understand what they were doing differently to lead to these outstanding results,” Mr Hacking said.  “Our focus has now shifted to ensuring that our members are gaining the benefit of this pipeline of future employees. 

“Our investigations have highlighted several key differences, which we believe go a long way to improving the outcomes for students.”

Mr Hacking said an AITC campus is very different to a typical school: 

“The first thing you notice is the physical differences – there is no school oval or gymnasium for a start. 

“That is because more than half the AITC ‘school year’ is spent off-campus and at a workplace or in training.”

He said students wear a uniform with their names emblazoned on the front.

“The formality towards teachers is dispensed with,” Mr Hacking added. “The culture is very much aimed at replicating a workplace environment.”

The curriculum is truncated with a strong focus on literacy and numeracy. Science, health and physical education are taught with an emphasis on practical application rather than theory. 

Students also complete a Certificate II in Skills for Work in Year 11 and Certificate III in Entrepreneurship and Business in Year 12.

The curriculum is taught in educational ‘blocks’ of five weeks, allowing students to spend the remainder of each term (up to 27 weeks a year) getting work experience in a workplace or in their apprenticeship. 

These ‘industry blocks of time’ lead to higher levels of information retention and the satisfaction of completing large and often more exciting tasks than can normally be achieved in a day’s placement under the traditional VET model.

“Students are encouraged to try a range of different trades in Years 10, 11 before transitioning towards their chosen career path,” Mr Hacking said.

“Students are also taught practical life skills about eye contact, a firm handshake and first impressions.

“They are given the responsibility to organise their own work experience – not their parent – but the actual student, showing initiative and making the arrangements.

“There is no doubt that AITC students are better prepared for the workplace and the culture of teamwork and camaraderie is noticeable.

“The flexibility of the system and focus on industry is refreshing and gives HVIA hope that there will be a pipeline of highly educated and enthusiastic tradespeople for many years to come. 

“The challenge now is to replicate the model across the nation.”  


This article was published in the Big Rigs careers special feature
Driving Australia’s Future” published on 17 September 2021

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