The Importance of Work Experience and Work Placement

Ange Connor

Work experience shaped my career path. I was fortunate during secondary school to have the opportunity to complete multiple work experiences. Completing what was known at the time as a VET subject, allowed for the additional weeks of work experience, in addition to the standard year 10 week of work experience. My first work experience opportunity was with UFS Dispensaries, which led to casual employment that I combined with my schooling. Another one of my work experiences was with a real estate agent, which resulted in me pursuing a traineeship in real estate once I completed my year 12 studies. I didn’t know at the time how much impact those weeks of work experience would have on shaping my career.

I was fortunate in those work experience weeks that the host employers gave me a real experience of what working in those industries was like. The work experience wasn’t a token gesture where they had me just filing paperwork or stocking shelves. I was given the opportunity to truly experience what work was like in those environments. In hindsight, those experiences shaped my career and my career path and taught me so much about the workplace.

Fast forward twenty-odd years since those days of work experience and in this current candidate short market, employers are telling me of their challenges to recruit fresh new talent to their business and even their industry. A common complaint from businesses is that the young people coming out of secondary school and university might have the piece of paper to say they have completed VCE or a degree, but they don’t have the soft skills – the personal skills and attributes – needed for the workplace. For example, their communication skills need development, they’re not work ready in understanding personal presentation or workplace etiquette, they are not ready to be client-facing, etc.

I believe workplaces have a critical role to play in how we support the development of new and future talent in our industries, and work experience and work placements are a huge opportunity for businesses to help. Currently, at Inspire HQ we have an HR & Management uni student completing her university work placement with us. For one of her subjects, she needs to complete 80 hours of work placement. Through initial discussions with her about the placement, she was keen to experience HR in the workplace to see if it’s a career path she might want to pursue. As we all know, the theory can be so different to the reality. Regardless of if she does or doesn’t pursue HR as a career path, I’m hoping that her time with us will have given her exposure to the real world of HR. I see this as our opportunity at Inspire HQ to promote HR as a career.

Hosting work experience and work placement students is an opportunity for businesses to grow their own talent. Allowing students into our workplaces and giving them exposure to what life is really like in the workplace allows students to start developing those soft skills earlier on in the career journey, but only if we are committed to providing them with the experiences and feedback to help them grow and develop. Work experience and work placement can’t just be about filling their days with the boring and mundane tasks. Although we all have to start at the bottom with some of those boring and mundane tasks, work experience or work placement needs to show the student what a career in your business and/or industry looks like. While growing your own talent from work experience or work placements might seem like a long-term game, it’s the reality of the candidate short market we find ourselves in. To recruit great talent in these times, we need to start thinking differently about sourcing talent and playing the long-term recruiting game.

We can’t rely on schools and universities to teach students the work ready skills. As businesses, we have an opportunity to play a greater role in that space, through offering work experience and work placement opportunities and helping those students get work ready for when they enter the workplace.

I can’t remember how or why I chose to complete work experience in a real estate agency back in year 11. I do know though, that at that stage I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up and that I didn’t even know or understand what human resources or recruitment was, or that it existed as a career path. So many secondary school students don’t know what they want to be when they grow up (nor should they at that age) and many don’t know about the variety of careers that exist unless we as businesses actively promote our industry and profession. It can often be the well-known business brands and industries that are sought after for work experiences and work placements. Getting on the front foot and partnering with secondary schools and universities to offer your workplace as a host might provide you with the opportunity to educate future talent on other career paths that exist for them.

What could your business be doing to help develop the future talent of your profession?



Disclaimer: The material contained in this publication is of a general nature only. It is not, nor is intended to be, legal advice. If you wish to act based on the content of this publication, we recommend that you seek professional advice.

About The Author
Ange Connor

Ange is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource (HR) and careers agencies. Ange is an ‘ideas’ person and a ‘big picture’ thinker. She loves to challenge the status quo – in fact, that’s how Inspire HQ began.

Ange has supported hundreds of businesses across Ballarat and regional Victoria to attract, engage, motivate, develop and retain their greatest assets; their people. Ange’s unyielding passion and invaluable knowledge of the recruitment and HR industry ensures she delivers the best solutions for her clients.

Ange has held various board positions and regularly volunteers her time to share her industry and market knowledge. She was recently a Councillor for the Victoria and Tasmania region of the Recruitment Consulting and Staffing Association (RCSA) of Australia and New Zealand, and she is a current Board Director of the Committee for Ballarat.

For more useful information, follow Ange on LinkedIn.

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