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Your guide to work placement (aka Structured Workplace Learning)

by Amanda Collins

Studying with Open Colleges means that you do all your learning online, in your own time, on your laptop, tablet, desktop or smart phone – whatever is nearby.  Sometimes, however, particularly in courses where you need to be hands on,  you will also need to complete Structured Work Learning, also known as a work placement.

To find out more about Structured Work Learning we chatted to Open Colleges’ Work Placement Support Officer Roberto Napolitano and Meghann Beckley, Industry Partnerships Manager.

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What is work placement?

Meghann:

“Work placement is the practical component of your course. It is where you learn the practical skills you need to become competent in the course that you are studying”.

Roberto:

“It’s the part of the course when you can implement your theoretical knowledge and get hands-on experience”.

How will I know if a course includes a work placement? 

M: “It’s in the Course Guide. The Guide is one of the first things you’ll see when you’re looking to enrol in the course.

“Also, when you first call about a course, the Enrolment Consultant will tell you if it work placement is required. This means you are aware whether or not you will need to do a work placement before you enrol”.

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What are the benefits of Structured Work Learning?

  • M:People are your greatest learning resource. The more people you have to learn from, the better. There are some things you can’t learn independently, like techniques that people have picked up over years of work”.
  • “Work placement makes students more confident. It also gives them a feel for what is going to be required of them in their new career.
  • “Also, a lot of our students gain employment as a result of excellent performance within their work placement”.
  • R: “A big benefit is that students get to create professional networks. They can also put their work placement on their resume under ‘Experience’. This means they’re not entering the industry without experience in the sector”.

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How do I find a host organisation for a work placement?

1. Read the guide and get your documents ready

  • M: “We have a very large document called the Work Placement Assessment Guide. This document covers everything a student will need to know about their placement from start to finish”.
  • “We also have templates available for students to use, and offer them help with their resume”.
  • R: “The best approach students can take is to get familiar with all the documents related to their Structured Work Placement. Once they know them, and how many hours they need to complete, they can begin researching possible placement hosts.

2. Research potential hosts

  • “I usually recommend students go onto whereis.com or Google, and start researching what’s out there near where they live.
  • “Once they have a list of possible hosts, they need to research what the work placement will require of them. This makes them look more professional when they call up potential hosts, as they are able to answer questions”.

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Would you recommend students start looking for a work placement early?

M: “It’s preferable that you have the basic Workplace Health and Safety under your belt before you start, because we want you to be safe in placement”.

R: “Before a student starts a placement we have to be sure that they have a certain level of knowledge and competency.

“However, it is a good idea to begin looking to line-up a placement from the start of their studies. That way when the time rolls around to start a placement, students already have one waiting to go”.

“If a student lives in a really remote town, I would recommend making sure that there is a work place that is able to take them on, before they even enrol. Unless they are happy to travel for work placement”.

How do I apply for a work placement?

M: “It’s like applying for a job and it really should be treated as such. Because essentially these are going to be your industry colleagues and this could end up being an employment opportunity”.

“You really have to treat your entire work placement as a big, long interview. Best behaviour, show initiative, really get involved, and show them your best side.

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What happens if I can’t find a work placement?

M: “We have an entire team of Work Placement Support Officers that are trained in their individual industry fields to assist students who are struggling to find a work placement.

“The team help students find their position. We use a combination of techniques including coaching, and we also have industry partners that we can approach that get paid to take Open Colleges’ students.

“These industry partners are very well informed on the processes and how to get a work placement student from Open Colleges to graduation point.

“Having said this, it’s a requirement that students have at least attempted to find a placement on their own, before we give support.”

R: “If you’re struggling to find a placement, sometimes it helps to broaden your options and to compromise. You may have to drive further than you wanted, or change the time of day you hoped to work around”.

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What happens if I don’t like my work placement host organisation?

R: “If there are any problems, it’s crucial that the student gets in touch with us right away so we can step in and try to resolve whatever the problem is.

“If nothing can be resolved, of course, we are there to assist the student to find another placement”.

Do I get assessed on my work placement performance?

M: “Other than basic attendance and learning on the job, there are four different assessments that must be completed before students can graduate from their work placement.

  • “There’s two oral exams, one half way through, and one at the end. The oral assessment at the end involves the Supervisor from your host workplace.
  • “There’s also the Log Book, and Skills Log. The Log Book is where students log their hours of attendance and the things that they did on each visit to their host organisation. The Skills Log is where the student’s Supervisor will tick off certain competencies that they feel the student is confidently competent at.
  • “The final assessment piece is the student’s Portfolio. This assessment displays written, pictorial and video evidence that the students can perform specific workplace tasks”.

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Do you have any work placement tips for students?

  • M: “You need to read your Work Placement Assessment Guide and you need to know what is expected of you before you walk in the door. If you’re prepared, you’re going to take things on-board easier”.
  • Anticipate things, so you know what’s coming up next.
  • “If you just walk in blindly and just expect to fuddle your way through it then you’re not going to get the best experience out of it. You’re not going to learn everything to an adequate level.
  • “So be prepared, know what it is you’re there to do and get on top of your time management”.

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Want to know more?

So there you have it, your guide to Structured Work Placement learning from the experts! If you want more information, check out the Structured Workplace Learning page on Open Colleges’ website, or contact one of our friendly Enrolment Consultants on 1300 853 033.

Get practical skills, even when you study online!

If you want to enhance your skills, start, or change careers but need those practical hand-on skills, a course with Open Colleges can let you learn the theoretical knowledge online in your own time and do a work placement to apply your skills in the real world. Find your course now.

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