Thursday, April 04, 2013

Unpaid Work: Experience or Exploitation

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where I am taking aprt in an international on-line seminar (a "webinar") on "Work Integrated Learning (WIL)/Cooperative Education" hosted by ACEN. (next is 9 May). The first topic was "Assessing WIL outcomes through reflective practice" this is a hot topic at universities, where old fashioned harassment through examinations and assignments is being supplemented by asking students to think about what they have learned. One issue with this is how you teach students reflection.

The second topic for the seminar was "Experience or exploitation?" discussing the Report for the Fair Work Ombudsman, "Experience or Exploitation? The Nature, Prevalence and Regulation of Unpaid Work Experience, Internships and Trial Periods in Australia" (January 2013), which found widespread, exploitation of workers in Australia by employees, under the guise of work experience. Under Australian law, students undertaking legitimate education can be in a workplace being unpaid, or paid less than award rates. However, most cases investigated in Australia were of workers undertaking unpaid work, without receiving any formal educational outcomes, which is illegal. A Report summary, Full report, are available.

My professional body, the Australian Computer Society set up the "ACS Foundation" which has a Scholarship Programme for Work Integrated Learning (WIL). This has carefully established procedures to ensure the rights of the students are protected and so simplifies the process for universities and companies involved in the scheme.

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