School work experience is designed to be solely for your benefit. Sure, you might be asked to fetch some coffee but even that’s unlikely in a professional workplace (plus most people like making their own coffee).
Your teacher will be interested to hear what you got up to, and employers tend to offer structured programs that include a range of activities to help you understand what you’ll be getting yourself in to.
But there is another side to work experience, which is what happens once you leave school.
In a competitive job market it can be difficult to find entry-level roles, particularly in highly sought-after fields. Which means you could find yourself working in ‘internships’ for a period while you study, or even after you study before you can find a paid role. Here’s a rundown of what that could look like (you’ll laugh, then you’ll cry).
Which is why it’s so important to take advantage of school work experience while you can.
There are rules which govern what you can and can’t do during an internship, and you can find them all here.
In summary, if you’re doing productive work that would normally be done by paid employees and you’re expected to work set hours to keep your position, then it’s likely you should be paid for your time (and it’s not really an internship). There’s a Fact Sheet from Fair Work Australia which can help you work out whether you should be paid or not.
Chances are you’ll want and/or need to complete some work experience as part of any further study you undertake, so it’s a good idea to learn what unlawful internships look like. Unfortunately, employers still post opportunities that are unlawful from time to time, but groups like Dodgy Internships Australia are working to help educate students before they get into a difficult spot.