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Why work placements matter

Work experience isn't an afterthought with TAFE courses – it's crucial

Many educational institutions try to ensure their students get some ‘real world' training, but TAFE has long been the industry leader when it comes to work experience.

For many years TAFE has recognised the importance of giving students the opportunity to work in their chosen industry long before applying for a full-time job in it.

TAFE-style work experience

While many universities and colleges encourage and even facilitate work experience placements, few are experts at creating well-designed work experience programs in which students learn about their chosen industry rather than ending up doing menial tasks. TAFE has experience working closely with industries and is in an excellent position to match up students with appropriate employers.

For example, someone studying a Certificate IV in Mental Health with the ambition of becoming an outreach worker might do a work placement at an organisation providing mental health services to a vulnerable community.

What's required

Work experience isn't an afterthought with TAFE courses – it's crucial. It's usually required that students spend approximately a quarter of their time in a work placement. There are dedicated coordinators at TAFE who help students decide what type of work placement would be best and help them make the necessary arrangements. Teachers then liaise with the person who will be supervising the student in the workplace.

While on work placement, a student has to meet a list of competencies developed by their teacher. To meet those competency requirements, the student needs to perform at an acceptable level of skill, organise tasks, respond appropriately when things go wrong, interact with others in the workplace and transfer knowledge, skills and attitudes to new situations.

What students get out of it

If that sounds like TAFE students must put a lot of thought and effort into their work placements, it's because they do. The upside is that, rather than being sent out to buy the boss's lunch, they're at the centre of it all learning valuable skills. At the end of their work placement, TAFE students have:

  • a good sense of what working in their chosen industry involves
  • gained an understanding of the attitudes and behaviours expected in that industry
  • developed their skill set and confidence.
  • Aside from all the other benefits, TAFE NSW students often find that a work placement looks great on their resume and allows them to build up industry contacts, which makes getting a job much easier.