We write this letter as students who are greatly alarmed about the immense burden the current placement model places on students, and our wider professional workforce. Placements are a vital component of our practical professions.
However, with the current increased cost of living and housing insecurity, placements have morphed from a ‘vital learning opportunity’, to a time of extreme distress (financial, physical, mental and social) and for some, an insurmountable barrier to degree completion.
Our professions are at risk of being seen as privileged, wherein degree completion is restricted to only those with the resources (financial, physical, mental, and social) to complete an unpaid placement.
Students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, students with caring responsibilities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, students with disabilities and international students are unduly discriminated against by the rigid duration and regulations for placement.
Inherent in the current placement model is the assumption that all students can afford to go months without engagement in paid work, which is both unrealistic and contradictory to the majority of student experiences.
As a result, we are seeing unprecedented workforce shortages, and at the same time, the demand for social work, teaching, and health services are increasing. Tertiary enrolments into these professions are also decreasing, while rates of degree attrition are on the rise.
Our governing bodies can no longer say that they are unaware of the injustice and unsustainability of the current placement model. Continued inaction is harming students.
To achieve equity and accessibility and ensure the integrity and quality of our professions are maintained, it is imperative that the Australian Association of Social Workers, Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, and Queensland College of Teachers immediately implement flexible placement options that include;
- Establishment of a government-funded bursary scheme that compensates for costs incurred by students while on placement, in line with other countries (e.g., England),
- Reduction in placement hours, in line with other countries (US and Canada), and with reputable research evidencing that learning competencies can be achieved at reduced hours,
- Greater recognition of prior learning,
- The availability of work-based placements, and
- Allowances for shorter blocks of placement to be completed across the four-year degree.
Please join us in the fight to end unpaid placements by signing our open letter here.
By Students Against Placement Poverty, QLD
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