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What You Need to Know Before You Can Start Work Experience

The prospect of starting work experience can be really exciting. It’s a chance to finally get a taste of what your dream career might involve. But before you rush off and start looking for placements, there are a few things you should check off your list first.


Are you eligible?


As a general rule, to do work experience you’ll need to be of working age in your state or territory (this is usually around 13 years). Some specific programs might have strict age requirements – for example, the work experience program at Taronga Zoo is only open to students in Years 10-12.

If you find a program or employer you like, make sure you read all the information carefully or get in contact with them to make sure you’re eligible before you apply.


Insurance and risk assessment


If you’re organising a placement through your school, they will most likely take care of insurance for you. However, if it’s something you’re doing independently, you might need to be covered by the employer instead – or in some cases organise your own insurance. Note that some employers may not want to take on work experience students if they aren’t covered. This is particularly the case in industries that may be considered “high risk”, such as construction, healthcare, and manufacturing.

If necessary, find out what kind of safety measures you’ll need to take while on your placement. This is also something that your employer should cover with you, either before starting or on your first day. Your employer is also responsible for providing any required personal protective equipment (PPE).


Know your rights and responsibilities


Because you won’t be getting paid, there are certain tasks that you shouldn’t be expected to do by your employer. Most work experience placements will involve work shadowing and observation, and participation in activities that are for your own learning and benefit (not the employer’s). It’s important to know your rights so you can act if you feel that something is wrong.

On the other hand, it’s also very important to know what’s expected of you during your placement. You have a responsibility to show up on time, be respectful and enthusiastic, and actively participate in your placement – not just for the sake of your employer, but so you get the most out of the experience too.


Starting work experience


Once you’ve done the above, and you’ve found the perfect placement, the only thing left to do is get started!

If you’re still looking for ideas, you might like to check out our Work Experience Database here.


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