Workplacement a hindrance for single parents in university

Young mother carrying baby and university books
Image: iStock

When I was twenty -four, I was studying the Diploma in Conmunity Services online. I didn’t conplete the Diploma for one main reason: I couldn’t complete the workplacement.

According to the ABC, many university students are falling over a similar hurdle. Especially single parents.

Tess Williams is one of those parents. The mother – of – two tried to study to become a teacher. Unfortunately, after her marriage ended, completing six weeks of unpaid workplacement was proving difficult:

I was trying to fit it all in like a jigsaw. I’d organised for my mum to come and stay. All of these moving parts had to fit together to be able to make that placement work.

Finishing the degree would have made Williams max credit cards and get deep in debt. Unfortunately, Williams didn’t finish the degree. She only had six months to go.

That was eight years ago. She’s remarried, but never went back to finish her degree. She believes she still couldn’t afford it.

University drop out rate is astounding

Williams is not alone in dropping out of study. The drop out rate is shocking. According to the Grattan Institute, in 2018, 70% of part – time students did not finish their studies.

Clashes between study and family commitments was a main reason why students couldn’t finish their studies. Chief Executive for ‘National Council for Single Mothers’ , Therese Edwards reinforced the finding.

Female dominated degrees most affected

There is a sex – based bias here. Many of the degrees that require extensive, often unpaid workplacements, are dominated by women. As you can see above, education is one such field.

When I saw the article on Facebook, some commenters claimed that Social Work students also found workplacement to be a common hurdle. (Social work was the degree I had my heart set on when I wa# in my mid twenties. I don’t feel so alone, now).

Universities in Australia need an overhaul

The more I read (and sometimes write) about universities, the more I realise that something is broken. The way that universities operate needs an overhaul.

From students having to choose what debts to pay off to the drop out rates, the way Australian universities are being run isn’t working. Too many people are not having their career dreams fulfilled because of roadblocks placed by university bodies.

The university sector isn’t friendly to young students that aren’t already wealthy or mature – aged students, especially if they’re parents. I mean, what’s the point? More importantly, what can be done?

I think that university degrees (especially bachelors) should be government funded. With that, I also support the number universities places being capped.

Secondly, workplacement requirements need obvious reform. I think workplacements should be paid, similar to apprenticeships and traineeships. Maybe the federal or state governments can subsidise these wages. Maybe the wages don’t nedd to be that of a full-time employee, but they should be fair.

Everyone should be given a fair go. And currently, university students aren’t getting that. I think that should change.

What do you think? Should the university sector in Australia change? If so, how? Feel free to put your thoughts in the comments below.