Frequently Asked Questions

How can tertiary pathways and apprenticeships help my industry?

Tertiary pathways and apprenticeships are a great way for employers to respond to rapid industrial change and/or plan for future workforce needs.

You can use tertiary pathways and apprenticeships to address skills shortages in your industry, either by retaining your existing workforce while they quickly upskill or by recruiting new workers with industry-recognised qualifications.

What are they?

Tertiary pathways and apprenticeships are innovative ways to connect vocational education and training (VET) and higher education, with a strong focus on work-integrated learning.

Some common features of pathways include:

  • A number of flexible entry and exit points for students
  • A mixture of practical/technical skills and high level theoretical knowledge
  • Enabling content to support students to transition from VET to university study
  • A combination of work and study, including tertiary apprenticeship models
  • Collaboration between government, education providers, industry groups and employers

How are they different to traditional apprenticeships?

Traditional apprenticeships combine work-based training with an employer and formal training from a training provider. Apprentices are paid while they study and graduate with a VET qualification such as a Certificate III or IV.

Tertiary pathways and apprenticeships build on the traditional apprenticeship model and offer students a simple and easy way to progress to higher level VET and university qualifications (diplomas, advanced diplomas and bachelor degrees), providing a stepping stone to supervisory and managerial roles in their industry. Enabling content is also included to ensure students are prepared to progress to higher level study.

Is my business suited for a pathway?

It takes time and resources to establish a tertiary pathway or apprenticeship. Keeping this in mind, we recommend that a large employer or industry group would be best placed to coordinate the creation of a pathway.

Pathways can be created in any industry, as long as:

  • there is a demonstrated need for the pathway;
  • there is interest from students; and
  • the qualifications are relevant and recognised by industry.

What types of industries have established pathways already?

A wide range of industries can benefit from tertiary pathways and apprenticeships.

Pathways have been developed in these industries:

New pathways are being developed in the following areas:

  • Aboriginal health care
  • Civil construction and engineering management
  • Early childhood education
  • Protected cropping

Will brand new qualifications need to be created as part of my pathway?

Not necessarily.

Some pathways link existing qualifications together to form a seamless progression from VET to higher education, ensuring there is no duplication of content between the different qualifications.

Other pathways create brand new qualifications which integrate VET and higher education for the first time. VET and higher education providers will be able to advise you if a brand new qualification is necessary, or if existing qualifications can be adapted to meet the needs of the pathway.

Do I need the approval of the NSW government to establish a pathway?

No, you don’t.

NSW government agencies (including the NSW Department of Education, NSW Department of Industry and the NSW Skills Board) have played a key role in the development and piloting of tertiary pathways and apprenticeships, proving that they are a successful and sustainable model to address the education and skills needs of NSW.

The next step is to scale tertiary pathways and apprenticeships across the state and a variety of industries, and that’s where you come in. You don’t need government approval, but we are here to offer help and advice along the way if you need it.

How can the NSW Department of Education help me to set up a pathway?

If you need some guidance, there are a number of things we can do to help, such as:

  • Connecting you with key contacts across government and the education sector, including at VET and higher education providers;
  • Assisting with your project governance arrangements, including reviewing your project plan and milestones and becoming a member of your steering committee;
  • Navigating financial and funding complexity, including the different funding and student loan arrangements between the VET and higher education sectors;
  • Overcoming regulatory hurdles with the ability to influence change in VET, higher education, and apprenticeship and traineeship frameworks;
  • Breaking down cultural barriers between VET and higher education in both the public school system and in the community, highlighting that both options are equally aspirational and valuable, and not mutually exclusive; and
  • Promoting and increasing awareness of pathways to high school students and more broadly across government and the education and industry sectors.

Further information

Have additional questions? We’re here to help! Contact the Higher Education and Tertiary Policy directorate at the NSW Department of Education via email at:

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