Student work placements are when you work with a host employer as part of a high school, university or TAFE course. These placements are also called vocational placements, unpaid internships, or unpaid work experience.
Work placements are typically unpaid. There are rules around when an employer has to pay you for your work.
This type of work placement is designed to give you workplace experience. It’s a chance for you to apply the theory you’ve learned during your course to a professional setting.
A student work placement is a requirement for many courses. Often, your education provider will arrange the work placement for you. Sometimes, you may need to find a host employer yourself.
Work placements and pay
Some work placement hosts will pay you while you are on placement.
However, it’s okay for the work placement host not to pay you, as long as:
- the placement is organised as part of the requirements for your course
- the placement is mostly for your benefit as part of your studies
- you are mostly watching and learning, rather than doing meaningful work for your host.
When must a work placement host pay you?
If you’re doing work that an employee of the business would do, then you’re probably in what’s called an ‘employment relationship’.
An employment relationship is where you’re entitled to receive minimum wages and basic working conditions under the National Employment Standards.
Sometimes a work placement host might offer you a job. In this case, you sign or verbally agree to an employment contract, and you are considered to be in an employment relationship.
If you’re in an employment relationship with an employer, you should be getting paid.
How to get the most out of your work placement
Some tips for getting the most out of your work placement include:
- make sure there are clear expectations about what you’ll be doing
- meet regularly with your supervisor to talk about how you’re going
- ask for a small payment to help cover your expenses, or a transport ticket to get to and from work
- find a mentor in the workplace who can share their experience with you
- go to as many meetings and events as you can.
Other types of arrangements for students and graduates
They are all short-term placements that you do as part of the requirements of your studies. They are generally organised by your school, university or TAFE.
As long as you’re not doing work that an employee would do, your host employer doesn’t have to pay you for this type of arrangement.
Industry-based learning is similar to a work placement, but placements are for a longer period of time (for example, six months), and you must be paid (usually 70 per cent of a graduate salary).
A paid internship is generally a graduate position. Your employer recruits you as part of a graduate recruitment program. Usually you’d be paid a graduate salary.
Find out more about student work placements
The Fair Work Ombudsman has more information about student placements. They can help if you have a problem.
You can contact the Fair Work Ombudsman on 13 13 94.