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Providing work experience to a young person

December 11, 2019

There are often times when as a builder or trade contractor you are approached by a young person seeking some work experience. Whilst hosting a student may allow you to participate in the development and vocational training of young people (and identify potential employment opportunities), there are various things to keep in mind if you are considering providing this opportunity.

Is the placement part of a formal work experience program- such as through a school program or vocational studies?

As a general rule you cannot take someone on and not pay them. Unpaid work placement or trials are allowed where the person is undertaking work experience or work placement as part of their studies.

If someone wants some work experience and it is not through a work experience program at school or TAFE then they may be seen as an employee and therefore must receive minimum entitlements for the work they do for you. You should exercise caution where a young worker seeks some work experience over school holidays. It is highly likely that the experience they are seeking is not part of a vocational placement and therefore they are entitled to be paid for their labour, especially if the tasks performed are those that a paid employee would usually do, and the business gets the main benefit (productive work performed for the benefit of the business).

Have you looked at safety for this person?

There are various safety considerations to think about if approached such as;

  • General construction induction training (white card) would most likely be required for this person and usually schools will organise the training.  This general induction safety training is required for all construction work- and work experience students rarely stand behind a line purely observing what is happening. A work experience student is regarded as a ‘worker’ for the purposes of Work Health and Safety laws.
  • Risk assessment – remember you are allowing an unskilled person onto a building site which is full of hazards and you have a duty of care to that person. Supervision and training of all workers is important, but even more so when someone is onsite who is new to the industry and more vulnerable.Recently a manufacturing company was hit with an enormous fine of $250,000 after a work experience student suffered a serious and permanent injury (loss of fingers) when using machinery in the factory that they were not trained to use. 
  • What task/activities can the student undertake- all activities need to be fully supervised. There are certain work activities, like roofing works and asbestos works that a student is prohibited from undertaking when on work placement or work experience under approved school programs. Other activities, like operation of machinery may have certain conditions.

Liability for the person-again where it is a formal placement, the school would have insurances in place to cover any injuries the student may incur during work experience as well as cover for any damage that the student may cause (public liability) in the course of gaining hands on experience at the workplace. The NSW Department of Education indemnifies employers participating in approved workplace learning (work experience and work placement in NSW high schools).


For more information about providing work experience, contact your Workplace Adviser on 1300 650 620.

If approached by a young person, you should ask to speak to the school careers adviser to ensure any placement is only via an approved workplace learning program.