Moving from a TAFE Course or University degree can be a daunting process for many young workers, as they enter the workforce of their chosen career for the first time. For many, the final months of a course will include many hours of ‘on the job’ placement, which are often unpaid, or paid at reduced rates.
Some courses that immediately come to mind with placements are teaching, social work and nursing. These courses require, as part of the transition between theoretical study and joining the workforce a period of ‘on the job’ training, which can sometimes be upwards of 1,000 hours. In exchange for working, students receive training and practical skills. For instance, the Pre-service Teacher (PST’s) Placements in Victorian Government Schools Policy, stipulates that PST’s must be given regular observation and feedback, and assure “appropriately” skilled mentors & supervising teachers are assigned on placements.
So as part of their rights, such as a safe workplace, protection from discrimination & freedom from bullying and harassment, the access to adequate training forms one of the corner stone rights of any student on placement. However, many students have stated that they have often not been given proper training, and very little oversight is given over placement to ensure they are being appropriately trained. Many complained of doing very little in training instead being rendered to menial tasks & administration roles outside of the profession they are training for.
Not only are students concerned about their training, for many, this will be their first time in the uncontrolled “real world” of their professions, which for some, like laboratory technicians or nurses, means exposure to potentially hazardous workplace environments. Many students worry that safety concerns raised would be dismissed due to inexperience, and the comparatively short period they may work at a single site or with a single employer. Placement students still hold the right to refuse unsafe work, and raise safety concerns no matter the terms of their employment or placement. Ultimately, the best protection for safety, is, as always, the membership of your trade union. Many unions in these sectors offer free or reduced rate memberships to students or graduating members. Such unions include the Australian Education Union, Independent Education Union, Australian Nurses & Midwives Federation and Victorian Allied Health Professionals Association to name a few. You can find your union on: https://www.australianunions.org.au/join/begin-join/#/
The take-away from this is a very clear sign that entering the workforce for the first time is a daunting task. For many, demands of training & study are at their peak, and many unscrupulous employers neglect or directly exploit placements in their workplace, leaving many young workers at risk of safety incidences or damaging their own education outcomes. If you have experienced something similar on placement as a university student, get in contact with your union or your university placement coordinator.