Australian universities take work-integrated learning – where you apply academic learning to a real-life situation – seriously. In 2017, they offered 555,403 workplace experiences, with close to half a million university students, both domestic and international, taking part.
Work placements refer to a stint working in a specific role in a company during university term time. They are usually tied to one or more courses within your programme that you are likely to earn credit for.
Here’s how you can find one in Australia:
Some universities or departments have work placements embedded in their courses. Some don’t. Check with your course provider which category they belong to. If it’s the former, the work placement would be mostly handled by your university. If you’re in the latter ie. expected to find your own, follow through to Step 2.
There are several types of work placements, from community volunteering to professional experience, so you should choose on that interests you and is applicable to your course. If in doubt, seek help from your university’s career development office or the contact person in your discipline.
2. Start early
If you’re going on a work placement in June, you’ll want to start your preparing months in advance.
Places where you can seek relevant opportunities include company websites, job sites (eg. Seek, Career One, etc) and even your social network by asking your family and friends. Some universities might have career hubs or on-campus placements.
Engineering students can also register with Engineers Australia. This will give students and graduates access to EA Connect, a platform that lists work placements within the industry.
Ask the potential companies you’re interested in whether the position meets your academic course requirements, as well as whether it fulfills all relevant laws and safety requirements. You should also ask whether you have the necessary academic requirements, police checks or any relevant immunisations for the advertised placement. You can do this by calling or e-mailing the relevant contact at these companies.
To know more about your work rights, read the Fair Work Commission’s website about workplace relations matters, including minimum wage and conditions and advice on workplace agreements. The Fair Work Ombudsman also has sections on Young workers and students and A guide to starting a new job.
Let your course co-ordinator know of your intentions to apply for a placement. Give details such as the company name, location, duration, working hours, company contact details, etc.
Applying for a placement is similar to applying for a job. You’ll need to write an excellent résumé and cover letter as part of your application. There will be competition from students at other universities, so it’s key that you stand out as an attractive candidate.
Your university’s career services department should be able to help you in this area by looking over the presentation of your résumé and cover letter before submitting an application.
Most companies will set up an interview to see whether you’re suitable for the work placement. Prepare in advance with the help of your career services department and good luck!