ABC Radio Adelaide – work experience in schools

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Radio Interview, ABC Radio Adelaide, Drive

SUBJECTS: Work experience in schools

JULES SCHILLER: A recent survey from the Commissioner for Children found that our present work experience scheme has major flaws and was failing to deliver. To discuss this I’m joined by the Shadow Minister for Youth and the Federal MP for Kingston, and she also hosts an annual Youth Roundtable, Amanda Rishworth. Hi Amanda.


SCHILLER: Where did you do work experience first Amanda?

RISHWORTH: I did my first work experience at John Martins.

SCHILLER: Really what department?

RISHWORTH: The women’s lingerie actually. I spent most of the time out the back hanging women’s lingerie, they didn’t let me near the cash register or anything like that.

SCHILLER: Was it a valuable experience to you?

RISHWORTH: It was in some ways, by day three I did find it pretty repetitive and I would’ve liked to have gotten a little bit more experience in the retail sector because ended up getting a part time job later in a different retail company. But I did think that it would’ve been more useful to have a bit more structure about what work was and all the different aspects of retail, rather than just the one thing which was be put the back and basically spend five days hanging lingerie.

SCHILLER: I think that’s the only time I’ve heard you use that phrase Amanda Rishworth. Hopefully that won’t be the title of your autobiography one day.

RISHWORTH: I hope not.

SCHILLER: Are you finding as part of this survey that the present day work experience program is outdated?

RISHWORTH: I think what young people are definitely telling me is that they’re not feeling prepared for the world of work. When it comes to work experience I’ve had a lot of young people say they’ve had to go out and find their own work experience, and it didn’t necessarily fit in with their career planning or discussion at school. So I think it’s often sort of plonked in the curriculum, people have to find their own work experience and it’s not actually connected with what should be a broader discussion for young people at school about where they want to go, what’s their career trajectory, what are they interested in? Because a lot of young people have told me they sort of leave school and they don’t feel like they’ve really had that experience of understanding what the world of work is like and where they should go.

SCHILLER: I’m just looking from my role here at the ABC Amanda, I get and we all get requests for people to come and do work experience here but it’s really hard when work places are stretched and you’re really busy. And because there’s no filing anymore and it’s all computer programs and passwords and technology, it’s really hard to get someone from the outside to come and engage immediately in day to day work. Is that what the survey found?

RISHWORTH: What it really found is that probably the best way of engaging with young people and where they see their future, is not necessarily that traditional one week of work experience. So I think actually looking at how we can develop programs that are innovative. Perhaps it’s not spending the full five days in the workplace, but doing project-based work for a business for example. I mean I think it’s about thinking about what the world of work is going to look like later on, but importantly having that wrapped around some discussion about aspirations and what young people want to do, what their career goals are and actually giving them the opportunity to pursue that. That is a much broader conversation that needs to be had. Because a lot of young people are just saying that it was a waste of time for them.

SCHILLER: I think that’s a great idea because a week is a lot to commit to work experience, because I would feel that I could engage a work experience student for a day, maybe a day and a half but then it would get very repetitive and I think kind of stressful for them because they would feel like they were hanging around and in the way. So a week is just one thing about work experience that I think is a big commitment. Amanda what do you mean by having specific projects to do?

RISHWORTH: What an organisation might have is a problem they’d like a young person to solve. So they could bring them into the workplace, discuss the problem that might need to be solved and work with that student to come up with a solution. That’s the type of innovation that does happen at some universities in terms of work experience and it’s a model that has worked overseas as well. So rather than just sort of seeing the day to day filing or other elements of work, which of course is important to understand that work isn’t always glamorous. But actually looking at a problem solving solution-based model could well be something that is worth considering. But I think it’s got to be put in the context of a broader change within our schools, and that is really supporting young people to understand the world of work and that individualised career discussion about what they might want to do once they finish school.

SCHILLER: And you think some government money should go towards that?

RISHWORTH: I think this innovation can happen within schools, a collaborative approach with business and schools could work really well. I know there’s many businesses that have had great experiences for example with school based apprentices who come in one or two days a week. So I think we just have to get into innovative models and working collaboratively with business, making sure students and young people get a voice, as well as schools, could really see something exciting happen within our schools.

SCHILLER: Amanda Rishworth I really enjoyed this discussion, I think this is a really important topic because like I say work experience can make a big difference especially if you are in Year 10 or 11 and your ideas about the world are very malleable, and a good work experience placement can have a huge effect on your later life. So thank you for joining me Amanda Rishworth I really appreciated the chat.

RISHWORTH: Thank you.


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