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Getting a part-time job or work experience

Getting a part-time job or work experience

Research tells us that school students who have part-time or summer vacation jobs are more likely to gain employment after they leave school. This has been shown to be particularly true for school students with disability. It does not matter what type of work you do, it will still improve your later employment prospects. However, if you are going to get a part-time job, it makes sense to find one that:

  • Gives you an insight into the jobs and work environments that interest you.
  • Has prospects to lead into more varied work.
  • Could lead into a work-based traineeship or apprenticeship after leaving school.
  • You can get to by public transport from your home.
  • Matches your physical abilities.
  • Matches your academic abilities.

You will improve your chances of finding a suitable part-time job if you:

  • Use your family/friend network, and the people they know, to find the names of people and places with the type of work that interests you.
  • Send an introductory letter, along with your resume (a one page bullet-point summary of your skills, abilities, personal qualities and interests), to prospective employers.
  • Arrange to visit the workplace to find out more about the company and job opportunities.
  • Contact employers directly (by phone or in person) to express your interest in part-time employment or work experience.

When you meet with a prospective employer you should be neat, clean and dressed to meet the boss, not dressed as you would to do the job for which you are applying. Make sure that your answers to the employer's questions tell them why you want to work part-time and why you want to work for them. For example, 'I am interested in doing this sort of work when I finish school and working here will give me a much better idea about the job requirements'. Always have a one or two thoughtful questions about the job or the company ready to ask at the end of the interview. And don't ever be afraid of asking for the job. Finishing your meeting with 'When can I start?' may seem bold, but it works surprisingly often.

Whatever the outcome, it is wise to send a thank you note. It shows your motivation, loyalty, dependability and professionalism, as well as keeping your name in front of the employer for their next position.

Choosing the right subjects

Choosing the right subjects

When thinking about the course and subjects that you could do, these are some of the more important things that you should think about:

  • Interests. Do you like being indoors or outdoors? Getting dirty or remaining clean? Standing up or sitting down? Hot or cold conditions? Heavy or light tasks? Quiet or noisy environments? Active or passive tasks? Routine or varied tasks? Working quickly or slowly? What tasks or subjects do you enjoy doing? Are there any tasks or subjects that you find particularly boring, that you know you wouldn't be interested in? What do or don't you like about them?
  • Disability Issues. Is there anything about your disability that would impact on you doing a particular course or certain subjects in the course safely? Are there any study requirements or practical tasks in a particular course you are interested in that you could not do? Do you have epilepsy, asthma or allergies and, if so, are there any triggers to avoid undertaking practical tasks associated with your proposed studies? Do you take any regular medication that causes side effects that make some kinds of practical tasks unsafe?
  • Work Related Skill Factors. Think of your abilities in the following skill areas to help you decide which subjects you will do best in:
    • Verbal communication, e.g. serving customers, answering telephones, following complex verbal instructions.
    • Reading, e.g. understanding signs, following instructions.
    • Writing, e.g. ability to take messages, use order forms, write reports.
    • Time telling, e.g. awareness of time of day, ability to judge time remaining to finish or to self-pace.
    • Numeracy, e.g. counting quickly and accurately, measuring weights or sizes or distances, calculating quantities, mixtures or setting times.
  • Social Preferences. Do you like being alone or with others? Do you get along easily with others or struggle to understand each other?

Try talking to other people. Find out about their jobs / or professions – ask what a day in the life of . . . is like. Would you like to explore that career option more? How can you do this? Career Advisers are trained to assist you to make the right vocational choices. There are Career Advisers at schools, Institutes (formerly TAFE), and university, as well as in the broader community. You may want to talk to your peers, friends and family about the decisions they are making or have made about their vocational paths. The more you talk to people, the more you will be exposed to a greater range of career choices enabling you to make a well-informed decision about your future.

Developing good work habits

Developing good work habits

Most employers expect their staff to behave in the following ways:

  • Arrive on time
  • Have a good attendance record
  • Dress suitably for the job
  • Be qualified to do their particular job or be willing to be trained
  • Think about the job and make suggestions
  • Be interested in the work
  • Follow instructions and accept directions
  • Ask for help if needed
  • Behave in a way that reflects well on the employer and workmates
  • Keep personal problems out of the workplace
  • Obey safety rules
  • Do a fair day's work for a fair day's pay

You can develop many of these good work habits at school, in the home, during work experience placements or in your part-time job. Talk to teachers, parents and other people about working and earning an income. Ask them about the various jobs that people do.

Become physically fit through sport or a gym - while not all jobs are physically demanding, being fit and healthy will improve your attendance, concentration levels and performance in all jobs.

Seek specific jobs to do around the house and ensure that they are done on time. Look for opportunities to do volunteer, part-time or casual work. This could involve distributing pamphlets, delivering newspapers, walking pets, watering and mowing lawns, weeding gardens, or cleaning pools.

Most importantly, be optimistic about your future and share that optimism with your teachers, family, friends and others.

Developing good social skills

Developing good social skills

Increasingly, employers are not only looking for the best person to do the job. They are also looking for the person who will best fit into the workplace, get on with other workers and be a 'team player'.

Use your free time constructively and productively by developing a range of hobbies and interests. Having interests looks good on your resume and also gives you things to talk to your future employers and work mates about when you do join the workforce.

Become involved in team sports. Team sports will not only help to improve your fitness. They will also teach you the importance of teamwork and what teamwork involves.

Take an interest in your personal appearance and dress. Keep up with current trends in music, movies, games and activities. Get out and about in the community. Mix often and develop friendships with people who do not have disability.

Talk positively to your family and friends about your future. Set high expectations for yourself - because people rarely achieve beyond their expectations.

Doing a school-based traineeship

Doing a school-based traineeship

Unless you gain some useful work related qualifications, you will find yourself competing with more under-skilled job seekers for less entry-level jobs. These jobs are likely to become progressively less well paid, less challenging and offer less attractive conditions than semi-skilled and skilled positions. A school-based traineeship is an excellent starting point to building valuable and marketable work-based skills. You will also gain a better insight into work and a much more impressive resume to show prospective employers.

Traineeships involve a minimum of 832 hours of paid employment that is usually undertaken during school hours over one or two years. On successful completion you will gain a qualification that is nationally recognised by employers, Institutes (formerly TAFE) and other training providers. A school-based traineeship is also an excellent way to gain entry to an Institutes courses or an apprenticeship.

Many people with disability who wish to undertake a school-based traineeship have found a benefit in partnering with disability employment service. A growing number of disability employment services are beginning to work more closely with schools and with group training organisations to jointly find and support school-based traineeships for students with disability. Group Training Organisations are funded by government to directly employ trainees and apprentices and then place them with host employers. You can find out more about Group Training Organisations by visiting their national web-site at

It is important that you do your homework and find disability employment service and/or Group Training Organisations that is willing and able to support you in a school-based traineeship. Building a relationship with disability employment service and/or Group Training Organisations while you are still at school will also give you a head start when it comes time to leave school and look for full-time work, a work-based traineeship or an apprenticeship. Even if you choose to go to an Institute or university, the disability employment service may be able to help you find suitable part-time work around your studies.

For further information about school-based traineeships you can talk to your VET in school coordinator, guidance officer or career counsellor or visit and go to school-based traineeships or simply call 13 19 54.

Leaving school at the right time

Leaving school at the right time

It is important to plan ahead if you are going to make a successful transition from school to work or further study. Begin mapping the road ahead to your chosen career with your school counsellor and your family when you are starting Year 10. Possible pathways that will increase your level of qualification and make you more competitive include:

  • School-based traineeship, leading onto work-based traineeship into work.
  • School-based traineeship, leading onto an apprenticeship into work.
  • School-based traineeship, leading onto an Institute (formerly TAFE) or university and then work.
  • Institute course into work-based traineeship into work.
  • Institute course into an apprenticeship into work.
  • Any of the above on their own into work.

If your preferred options include an Institute or university the time for leaving school will be guided by when you are accepted into your course. By the end of September or May each year you must make an application for an Institutes courses commencing in the following February or July respectively and then wait for an offer. If you are intending to go straight from school to university, you will need to sit the Tertiary Entrance Examinations (TEE) and achieve the cut-off score for the course and university you seek to enter. Alternatively, you can complete some units at an Institute for which you will receive credits against university units and then complete your studies at university.

You may prefer to leave school and enter a work-based traineeship or apprenticeship. It is important that you speak with a number of disability employment services and/or Group Training Organisation in your area about your preferred pathway and if and how they can support you. Once you have identified a service or services (a growing number of disability employment service and Group Training Organisation are now working in partnership to support apprentices and trainees with disability) that you would like to support you, you will need to find out when they take on new registrants and whether there is a waiting list.

Doing a work-based traineeship

Doing a work-based traineeship

A work based traineeship is a full-time or part-time paid training arrangement. During the course of a traineeship, you get paid, you gain work experience and you learn new skills in a hands-on environment. On successful completion, you also gain a nationally recognised qualification. There are many traineeships to choose from and a list of traineeships currently available can be accessed at (go to traineeships) or by calling 13 19 54.

Among the growing number of traineeships that are offered, some that are popular amongst people with disability include: automotive, business administration, building and construction, community services, food, hospitality, information technology, land care, light manufacturing, process manufacturing, office skills, retail, small business, transport, and warehousing.

Trainees must be employed under an Award or other appropriate industrial relations arrangements. Employers are expected to have a strong commitment to training, and are required to provide appropriate support and encouragement throughout the traineeship.

Employers are required to provide:

  • Employment and training for the duration of the traineeship and every opportunity to learn the skills of the job.
  • Necessary time off work to attend and complete the relevant off-the-job training.
  • A working environment and conditions which contribute to skills development and meet industrial relations and occupational safety and health regulations.

Trainees also have certain obligations, which include:

  • Cooperating with their employer in order to achieve the desired training outcomes.
  • Attending off-the-job, external or on-the-job training as required.
  • Applying themselves to the agreed training plan.
  • Completing all of the work set by the Registered Training Organisation.
  • Keeping a record of achievements both at work and in training.

If you intend to undertake a work-based traineeship, you may benefit from using the supports available through disability employment agencies and/or Group Training Organisation in your area. These types of services are increasingly working in partnership to provide trainees with disability with a comprehensive array of registration, assessment, traineeship matching, induction, marketing, placement, and on-the-job support services. You can find out the names and contact details of these services by contacting your nearest Centrelink office or New Apprenticeship Centre.

Doing an apprenticeship

Doing an apprenticeship

An apprenticeship is a full-time employment based training program that provides an opportunity to learn all aspects of a trade. Apprentices are contracted to an employer for a fixed period of time (in many cases four years) during which they learn all about a trade. Group Training Oganisations also employ apprentices and then place them with one or more host employers during the course of the apprenticeship to ensure that they get an opportunity to learn all of the skills involved in a certain trade. Apprenticeship training combines practical experience at work with complementary training off-the-job with a Registered Training Organisation.

There are many apprenticeships to choose from and all lead to becoming a qualified tradesperson. For more information on available apprenticeships call 13 19 54 or visit and go to apprenticeships. Some apprenticeships that people with disability are currently successfully completing include: auto mechanic, auto panel and paint, boilermaker, bread maker, cabinet maker, chef, electrician, hairdresser, mould and core maker, optical mechanic, plasterer, plumber and horticulturalist.

To be successful in completing an apprenticeship you need to be committed to undertaking a four-year training program and able to meet fairly intensive academic requirements. You may find it beneficial to register with disability employment agency that is experienced in placing and supporting apprentices with disability, especially if that agency also works in partnership with Group Training Organisation A specialised employment service can secure you a supportive employer in the many different trade areas as well as a Registered Training Organisation to sign them up.

The disability employment agency and the Group Training Organisation can both support you by:

  • Establishing that you have the commitment and basic skills to complete an apprenticeship.
  • Determining which apprenticeship best meets your skills and interests.
  • Locating a suitable host employer.
  • Locating a suitable registered training organisation.
  • Negotiating the Training Program Outline and clarifying your duty statement.
  • Providing you with individualised on and off-the-job training support.
  • Checking your training progress and liaising with the Registered Training Organisation.
  • Identifying the note takers, interpreters, assistive equipment and individualised tutorial assistance for your off-the-job training.
  • Coordinating assistive equipment, adaptations to existing equipment and modifications in your workplace.
  • Securing funding through programs such as the Disabled Apprentices Wage Subsidy to help cover your wages and equipment.

You can find out the names and contact details of your local disability employment agencies and Group Training Organisations by contacting your nearest Centrelink office or Australian Apprenticeship Centre.

Finding a mentor

Finding a mentor

We can all look back on our lives and think of people who were older, wiser or more experienced than ourselves, who gave us some valuable advice, helped guide us in the right direction, believed in us, stood up for us somewhere, or opened a door for us. Without their support things might have turned out differently or we might not have achieved what we have. These people are often called mentors.

Mentors are to be found in education, business, the arts, sport and many other areas. Mentors may assist in teaching, counselling, advising, introducing, networking, sponsoring, advocating, role modelling and encouraging their protégés (also known as mentees). The relationship between a mentor and a protégé can be more or less formal and structured, depending on needs and circumstances.

As a protégé, a mentor can assist you in any or all of the following ways:

  • Improve your knowledge of available services at study, work and the wider community.
  • Help to instil and maintain positive attitudes to study and work.
  • Support you to get though your traineeship or apprenticeship.
  • Give you a greater sense of confidence and optimism about the future.
  • Provide advocacy support when problems arise.
  • Assist you to establish and achieve study and work goals.
  • Advise you on paid and work experience opportunities.
  • Improve your job readiness, job presentation and job search skills.
  • Help you link up with a suitable employment agency.

Mentors also say that they gain a lot out of being a mentor. They get to use their own life skills and experiences to assist students with disability. They notice that their own personal skills and self-awareness levels improve. They learn to relate to members of the younger generation on an equal and mutually beneficial basis. They feel they have made an important and meaningful contribution and experience a greater sense of self-worth.

If you want to know more about finding a mentor, contact

Registering with an employment service

Registering with an employment service

The Federal Government funds a network of disability employment agencies throughout Western Australia that assist people with disability to:

  • Determine which jobs are best matched to their abilities, circumstances and aspirations.
  • Locate suitable vacancies with suitable employers and represent job seekers to those employers.
  • Modify workplaces and arrange assistive equipment to minimise the impact of their disability on work performance.
  • Provide on-the-job support and provide ongoing back-up and advice.

It is advisable to register with disability employment agency before you complete your studies for a variety of reasons:

  • You have to be assessed by a Job Capacity Assessor (where applicable) who will determine your eligibility which can take some time.
  • A number of them have waitlists and you may not be able to register immediately.
  • The disability employment agencies can help you to undertake a school-based traineeship or apprenticeship whilst you are still at school.

Some disability employment agencies offer other supports, such as mentoring programs or supported work experience, to boost your workplace skills and experience and to enhance your transition to employment.

Once you do leave school, the disability employment agency will know you better and therefore be able to represent you more effectively to employers.

There are more than 30 disability employment agencies operating in Western Australia. They are located all around Perth and in regional centres such as Broome, Port Hedland, Karratha, Newman, Carnarvon, Geraldton, Kalgoorlie, Esperance, Albany, Bridgetown, Narrogin, Busselton, Bunbury, Collie and Mandurah. Contact for information and contact details of disability employment agencies that operate in your area.

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