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  • Writer's pictureLaura Wong

Work, Study & Placement Poverty

The casual job you have had since high school making Big Mac’s at the Golden Arches, is regular and keeps a roof over your head. While it may not be a budding Engineers dream job it provides you with all the flexibility and security to be able to study and pay for the room in your messy share house, until you graduate. 

You tell your parents that of course you're going to smash your degree out and be finished in 4 years - but unless you're a part of the less than 30% that do - know you're in good company with the other 70% of students taking longer to finish a degree; and with good reasons:

  • Taking on a second degree 

  • Doing honours or a Master’s Program 

  • Working part time in industry and studying part time 

And of course, there are a few reasons that can make your degree longer, but really shouldn’t:  

  • Spending hours on World of War Craft creating Twitch content, instead of submitting that assignment. 

  • Going out the night before a big exam and realising at 3am there is no way you are making it to said exam.  

It's important to ensure that any delay in graduation is for the right reasons.  

At a point in your degree (usually 3rd year), you will find yourself needing to complete a placement. Typically, this is a 10–12-week summer placement program that falls between November and February. This is the time where balancing the casual job, study load and the need to pay rent can get tricky.  

The all too familiar words linger in my mind: “cost of living”... How do we balance our need to advance our degree and career? On top of that, some students will also face the risk of losing the casual job they rely on to pay their bills outside of the 12 week placement.

Sadly for some students, embarking on a placement means setting them up for a journey into homelessness and underemployment. Many students are finding that after securing their placement they no longer have time for the casual role that had been supporting them. Here at the API, we are committed to supporting you on your journey and have shared a few quick tips to help you avoid such a situation. 

To avoid the pitfalls of Placement Poverty, consider the following tips: 

  • Research your employer's policies on leave and unpaid leave, and be aware of your rights. 

  • Initiate early discussions with your manager about your absence for the placement. 

  • Inquire about potential part-time work opportunities with your placement organisation. 

  • Ask your placement supervisor for a future work reference. 

Those are just a few practical tips that we hope can help navigate placements and the balance between placements and casual employment. 

The bigger question we must ponder is whether the current placement structure works? Or should summer placements become a distant summer memory, to be phased out and replaced with paid part time Work Integrated Learning across a year?  


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