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Supporting an apprentice with a learning disability

Supporting an apprentice with a learning disability

Apprentice mentoring and support are important to encourage disabled apprentices to complete training.

Apprenticeships in Queensland play a significant role in increasing the skills base of the Australian workforce.

However, students with learning disabilities – such as ADHD, dyslexia or autism – are often underrepresented in these important training programs.

Employment rates of the intellectually impaired

Learning disabilities are common in Australia, with figures showing more than 700,000 Aussies have an intellectual impairment and 10 per cent of the population has dyslexia, according to the Australian Network on Disability.

Issues that can arise from learning disabilities include problems with short-term memory, speed of processing, time management and self-esteem.

However, even with reading and comprehension difficulties, individuals with intellectual impairments often have average or above-average intelligence.

Unfortunately, employment rates among disabled Australians are troubling. In 2009, just 54.3 per cent of people with a disability participated in the labour force, compared to 83 per cent of people without disability.

Retention versus non-completion

Learning difficulties can significantly increase the rates of non-completion in Australian apprenticeships, according to a 2010 study from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), in partnership with the Australian Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.

The factors that influence a non-completion result include low wages, employers dismissing problems in the workplace and a lack of support from colleagues, family and friends.

Difficulty understanding tasks and low educational levels also contribute to 60 per cent of non-completion for apprentices with learning disabilities.

Encouraging completion

Fortunately, the NCVER study also identified the factors that are likely to positively influence completion rates among Australian apprentices who have disabilities such as ADHD, dyslexia or place on the autism spectrum.

Helpful tutors were identified as factors that contributed to retention by 87 per cent of apprentices surveyed for the NCVER study.

Making new friends, having strong support from family and being mentored were also highlighted as key factors to improve retention and completion rates.

In particular, the employer is essential to supporting apprentices throughout their course, particularly if they provide the apprentice with the opportunity to use the skills they have learned.

Supportive relationships within the working and training environment are important for all apprentices, not just those with learning disabilities.

Of the study participants, 77.8 per cent identified mentoring and tutoring as the most helpful factor that enabled them to complete their apprenticeship.

This shows that by enlisting the help of a mentor for your organisation, you can work towards improving the retention and completion rates of your apprentices and trainees.

Fortunately, there are various apprentice support and mentoring services available in Queensland that can provide guidance and advice through the full apprenticeship process.

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