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Work experience, volunteering or casual work

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Work experience and on-the-job experience

Work experience is when you work for an organisation to learn about work for a short time. You do work experience while you’re still at school. After you leave school, experience like this is called on-the-job experience. Work experience and on-the-job experience teach you what working is like by:

  • building your understanding about different jobs
  • increasing your understanding about getting instructions
  • developing your skills in things like communication and working in a team
  • increasing your confidence in dealing with adults.

Work experience is one of the best ways for you to learn work skills and find out what you’re interested in.

In Australia, all Year 10 students are expected to do work experience for one week. The school is responsible for arranging this and providing support. However, this is just a small taste of what work is like. Many people with intellectual disability benefit from doing a wide range of work experience in Year 11 and 12 and on-the-job experience after they leave school. One way of getting more work experience at school is to do one day a week for the whole school year. For example, if you tried one job per term, this would help you learn about eight different jobs before you leave school.

In some states, when you do work experience, you must get paid a very small amount (e.g. $5 a day). This payment might be part of the rules that includes you in the employer’s insurance in case you get injured at work. It’s important to always check this. It’s a very small amount of money, because the employer is doing you a favour by helping you learn.

Learn more about using the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to get more work experience.


Volunteering means doing work for an organisation without being paid. You might volunteer for one day or for many years. Most people volunteer in an organisation as a way of giving back to their community. Roles can include basketball coaching, meals on wheels, scout leaders and visiting people who are lonely.

Volunteering is different from work experience and on-the-job experience because there is no expectation of getting paid and volunteering often lasts much longer.

However, volunteering is also a great way to build your work skills and confidence.

Casual work

Casual work is paid work where the employer only asks you to work when you’re needed. This means you might not know how many hours or days you will work each week. You may also not know how long you will work at the organisation for.

Casual work is often the first type of work young people get. Examples are working at fast food restaurants like McDonalds or working at the local supermarket like Coles or Woolworths.

Casual work is a fantastic way to learn about work. It’s different to work experience, on-the-job experience and volunteering because you are paid for your time. It also has different responsibilities – for example, if you don’t turn up when you’re expected, the employer will stop giving you work.

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