School operations

Structured Workplace Learning

Students with a disability

The process for preparing students with a disability for structured workplace learning should be the same as for other students, but with some important additional aspects.

When organising structured workplace learning, the Structured Workplace Learning Coordinator should:

  • know exactly what the student can and cannot do, and communicate this to the employer
  • be honest with the employer about the student’s abilities and not promise anything the student cannot deliver
  • suggest a trial before starting the placement if an employer is hesitant
  • indicate some examples of strengths of a student which an employer may value, including:
    • a strong desire to work in the industry
    • a good history of punctuality and reliability
    • a capacity to learn well when shown how to do a particular task
    • ability to concentrate and work on repetitive tasks
    • the knowledge that parents/carers are supportive and encouraging of the placement
  • prepare a letter to the employer clearly explaining what you are trying to achieve for the student and what the employer may expect from you
  • visit the workplace to generate creative ways of dealing with any problems
  • ask to speak to the supervisors and co-workers to prepare them. Encourage them to voice any concerns, and respond to these if raised. Talk about how the student will be prepared for the duties and about any modifications to work arrangements which may have to be made
  • have emergency contact numbers and, if required, a medical management plan clearly set out for the student

Structured Workplace Learning Coordinators should utilise the advice of the Student Support Group or Program Support Group when setting up structured workplace learning. These people will probably already have encountered and solved many of the issues that may arise. Visiting teachers for vision and hearing impaired students can also visit workplaces and assess the issues for the school, as well as provide advice on borrowing equipment for structured workplace learning if it is needed.

Inspecting a workplace before a placement

When inspecting a workplace before the commencement of a placement, the Structured Workplace Learning Coordinator should:

  • discuss all aspects of the placement and what the student will be asked to do
  • clarify the skills required to perform the tasks required
  • check the accessibility of the workplace and equipment to see if physical considerations will be catered for, for example, wheelchair access if required
  • establish the degree to which the employer will allow any school support systems to operate, for example, on the job assistance with an aide or signing interpreter
  • determine the accessibility of the workplace by public transport, roads to be crossed, steps, heavy doors and other potential constraints
  • check the workflow and pace of work, as the extra demands on a student with a disability may mean that they become fatigued earlier than might be expected
  • consider the consequences of making errors in each task, and reconsider assigning any task to the student where major damage can occur through minor error

Preparing students

Students should be prepared for the type of work and the nature of the tasks they will be undertaking. They should be made aware that workplace procedures and arrangements, including occupational health and safety requirements, must be observed. Students must undertake or complete relevant occupational health and safety training prior to commencing their structured workplace learning.

Students need to have the employer/supervisor/employee relationship clearly explained, so that they can accept constructive criticism, follow instructions and know who to ask for help. They need a good understanding of what the work is and what is expected of them in the workplace.

Students should be given clear instructions on what to do and who to contact if they need any help.

Photographs of the student at work will be useful for a résumé in the future. Prior consent from the student and/or parent must be obtained.

Preparing parents/carers

Parents can help prepare their child for structured workplace learning by discussing the differences between school and workplace expectations and sharing their own work experiences.

Parents/carers should be made aware that the Structured Workplace Learning Coordinator is the appropriate contact if they have any queries or concerns relating to their child’s structured workplace learning placement, and that they should not contact the employer about these matters, nor go to the workplace. If their child is sick and unable to attend structured workplace learning, the student is responsible for notifying their employer and school as soon as possible.

The level and nature of support will vary from student to student and workplace to workplace. Good matching of students to placements should eliminate many problems and records should be kept so that each new placement will become easier to organise.

Chapter in the Structured Workplace Learning Guidelines outlining the additional preparation required for students with a disability undertaking structured workplace learning

Reviewed 11 June 2020

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