More Talk No Action On Work Placements

Date —

3 September 2020

Education Sector/s —
Vocational Education & Training

Summary —

When undertaking a vocational education and training course, many students are required to undertake a mandatory work placement in order to receive their qualification. The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in many students being unable to be placed with employers. Despite being alerted to this issue in March 2020, the only action from government has been for form another committee to consider the issues.

Key Issues —

The strength of Australia’s vocational education and training system is its strong focus on workplace training and assessment. It’s in this context that many training packages contain a mandatory workplace requirement, requiring a student to complete a set number of hours ‘on the job’ before they can obtain their qualification.

The challenge is that in the Covid-19 environment, it is not always possible for students to meet this work placement requirement and thus they will not receive their qualification.

Based upon an assessment of enrolment data, it is estimated that as at end-August 2020 some 359,683 students are currently enroled in a course with a work placement requirement. Circumstances derived from the Covid-19 pandemic result in an outcome where many of these students are unable to undertake their mandatory work placement and therefore will be unable to progress to course completion.

A paper setting out the number of students involved and principles upon which a solution can be determined is available below.

Download ―
ITECA Policy Paper

Covid-19 Barriers To Mandatory Work Placement [PDF]  

The reason that students are unable to complete their workplace requirement varies, but all relate to the inability to be hosted by employers. This may be because the workplace is closed due to social distancing measures (as is the temporary position in Victoria) or may be because a business lacks the financial capacity to host the student. In certain sectors, for example human services, measures to contain the Covid-19 virus create a reluctance to introduce students into the workplace.

The inability of students to meet their mandated work placement requirement was identified by the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA) as a critical issue in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. The result was the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC) convened an emergency subcommittee that has spent six months “considering” and “looking into” the issue; however, the AISC has manifestly failed to act. Following strong advocacy by ITECA, governments acted ... by forming another committee.

“The first meeting of this committee was productive, it identified the key issues and established some broad principles for action. The problem is, these are the issues that should have been considered six months ago,” said Troy Williams, ITECA Chief Executive.

ITECA will continue to work with the new committee as it currently represents the only activity by government on this issue; however, ITECA is concerned that the work of the committee indicates that a solution is some months away which does little to support the many thousands of students unable to complete their studies as they cannot access a work placement.

In an environment in which, by some estimates, around 100,000 students will be unable to meet their work placement requirement by end-2020, ITECA will continue to lobby the Australian Government and each state and territory government for urgent action.

Getting Involved —

ITECA’s ability to play a lead role in matters associated with this issue rests on the advice and guidance of individuals serving on the ITECA Vocational Education and Training Reference Committee.  ITECA Membership – It's a great time to get involved.

Further Information —

If you're an ITECA member and would like more information on this matter, the ITECA team would value the opportunity to talk to you.  Simply send an email to or telephone 1300 421 017.  Stay up to date via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.


Disclaimer & Copyright —

This information may be reproduced in limited circumstances under a Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License.  Information published on this webpage is intended for general information only and no warranty is providers as to accuracy or completeness thus any reliance you place on this material is therefore strictly at your own risk.


IHEA Independent Higher Education Council Australia

Other News


VET In Schools Provider Views

A new assessment of what makes for a successful VET in schools program highlights that engaged secondary schools leadership is the key to success. More


Student Loan Tax In Senate

ITECA tells the Senate that legislation before the parliament that cuts the higher education student loan tax from 25% to 20% should be passed. More


RTO’s Kick Goals With Employers

Employer satisfaction with independent RTOs is set out in a new fact sheet that sets out performance on measures including the relevance of skills taught. More