Urgent need for government to invest in opportunities to enhance graduate employment

Australian students will be left behind as other countries take the opportunity to invest in professional experience opportunities which will enable growth in our future economy.

Australian higher education students face an uncertain future as they graduate into a changing world beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.  By investing in student placement opportunities, the Australian government is able to provide the support necessary to harness the creativity, resilience and energy of the next generation.

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Canadian government has recently announced CA$9 billion of investment in creating 5,000 new student placements, and expanding existing programs to create over 116,000 additional jobs.

A failure of the Australian government to make a similar investment will see our future talent falling behind or worse being lost overseas.

Whilst the Australian government has announced some funding relief for the Australian higher education sector, this funding has failed to invest in the development of the employment-related skills and capabilities of graduates required to take advantage of the economic opportunities beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Students, and the higher education sector, will continue to face several years of a deficit of professional experience opportunities which support accreditation and employment outcomes, unless the government acts.

The Australian Collaborative Education Network (ACEN) is calling on the federal government, as part of their response to the COVID-19 crisis, to support students in higher education to gain experience through workplace experiences and volunteer opportunities.

ACEN is calling on the federal government to:

  • Establish a grant scheme, targeted to students who face social disadvantage, to support these students undertake work placement opportunities
  • Provide targeted support for business and industry to deliver paid placement opportunities for students as the Australian economy opens up again
  • Support grants to the community and not-for-profit sectors to engage with students as volunteers drawing on their emerging professional knowledge to enhance outcomes for the sector

“Across the last weeks, Australian students have seen their employment and work integrated learning opportunities decrease significantly.  We need investment in our students so they can build their skills and networks, contribute meaningfully to the broader economy. The call to action of a grant scheme will have a positive impact towards a fair, prosperous and inclusive nation following this crisis,” said Associate Professor Franziska Trede, President of ACEN. 


ACEN is the leading professional association for practitioners and researchers from the tertiary education sector, industry, community and government representatives, involved in work integrated learning (WIL) in Australia (e.g. internships, professional experience, and clinical placements).  ACEN, as part of a global network, provides strategic leadership for work-integrated learning research, scholarship and practice in Australia, for its members and other stakeholders.


For further comment please contact:

Matthew Campbell, Chair, ACEN Advocacy and Engagement Committee