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The following article appeared in the Careers section of The Advertiser on Saturday August 26 2017

Knowing your Rights
Young Workers should know employers must mind their p’s and q’s too. Lauren Ahwan reports

Worker exploitation and workplace health and safety are as much of a concern to school work experience students as they are to paid employees. Endeavour College pathways leader Annie Fitridge believes work experience students often lack the confidence to speak up about unfair or unsafe work practices and need to be taught that “if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t”.

“It Can be very challenging for a young 15-year-old to go to their (work experience) boss or supervisor to say, ‘I don’t feel comfortable doing that’,” Fitridge says.
“So it’s important to make sure students are very aware of their rights and responsibilities and what they can and can’t (be expected to) do”

“It’s never too early to start talking about safety at work, and this (age, at which students typically undertake work experience) is also the time they start thinking about getting some type of after-school work, so it’s good to make them aware for that too.”

While Endeavour has had very few work experience incidents, Fitridge says statistics showing workplace exploitation and injuries are more common among young people make it likely that school work experience students are at risk too. She says the college provides general teaching on workplace health and safety but students are also counselled on their individual work experience placements to avoid potential hazards.

“The common (work experience risk) would be the student with a peanut allergy wanting to work at (as biscuit company),” Fitridge says. “But it’s also letting students know things like, if they’re at a small business where there may be only themselves and one or two others there, it’s not OK for (the staff) to ask you to look after the shop by yourself while they go off on their lunch break.”

Grace Atta, 15, undertook work experience at children’s allied health provider Family Time Australia. She says the support provided by her school made her less anxious in the lead-up to her placement.

“Telling us that it’s OK to say ‘No, I don’t want to do that,’ is something (students) need to hear because it can be scary to say no to an employer when you’re wanting to have a good impression of you.” she says.

Image: (Endeavour College) Student Grace Atta, who did work experince at the occupational therapy practice, with speech pathologist Chanelle Fimer. Picture TOM HUNTLEY. Original Source: The Advertiser Careers Lift out, Saturday, August 26, 2017, p.14. 

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