HSSO, the Human Skills Services Organisation, has just released a guide to help service providers, RTOs and others create “high quality work placement experiences.”

Focussed on the Cert. III in Individual Support, the guide provides practical information and Advice. The guide is underpinned by a policy and research paper.

What’s in the guide?

The guide starts by telling us what work placements are, how they work and then outlines the benefits. It then describes the key features of high-quality ones: strong collaboration, clear roles, responsibilities and expectations amongst the parties involved, effective support for students and continuous improvement.

The guide includes tips; resources – including case studies, further guides, a series of fact sheets, checklists and links to YouTube clips; templates; a glossary, further reading and other support.

Resources also include a guide for service providers to help them select an RTO and a guide for RTOs to help them to select a partner service provider.

The various fact sheets cover VET regulation, the regulation of aged care and disability support services and information on meeting the legal requirements for work placements. Checklists include a work placement checklist for RTOs and an equivalent one for service providers. There is also one for students. Templates include a work placement agreement and a work placement student feedback survey.

What the policy and research paper says

The research paper “sought to quantify the extent to which students were experiencing difficulties in accessing work placements and to understand the factors contributing to this from the perspectives of different stakeholder groups.” It drew on 206 survey responses from RTOs, “consultations with 27 representatives of aged care and disability support service providers/employers, industry bodies, unions, Industry Reference Committees, RTOs and training provider peak bodies” and focus groups with 22 current and past students of the Certificate III in Individual Support and a student placement facilitator. The paper found that:

“across all stakeholder groups there is support for the inclusion of mandatory work requirements in the Certificate III in Individual Support. Despite significant recent challenges in sourcing placements in areas affected by COVID-19 restrictions, employers remained committed to mandatory work requirements as a means of ensuring students are work ready and contributing to the quality of training outcomes.”

COVID has contributed significantly to the backlog in students needing placements, the paper reported. However, there are other significant barriers to accessing high quality work placement opportunities including access to employers, the availability of workplace supervisors and being able to access the full task range during placement.

High quality work placements are enabled when strong relationships are built and maintained between RTOs and employers, when the employer’s business needs are understood by the RTO and when placements are timed appropriately. The other big need is support: support by the RTOs for their students and employer support for those students while on placement. All this needs to be underpinned by effective feedback and review processes. A range of other issues are explored too.

Finally, the paper points to a few implications for policy and future projects, including the need to build the skills of workplace supervisors and support for employers, including financial support to them for taking on placements.