About Internships: Austudy and interns

Ross Woods, Rev Jul.'10, Dec.16

ACAS presently gets Austudy for programs that are taught through a combination of class work, individual mentoring and on-job intersnips, including some community-based projects. Some programs are called projects and some are called internships, but it doesn't make any difference. The how of teaching is up to the RTO and on-job learning is quite legitimate. It can include other things than sitting in class. In fact, class work is not a very good way to learn many things that we teach. Students can get Austudy for their internships as long as their learning experience is:

The practicum paperwork needs to all be above board if an ASQA auditor wants to check. (Centrelink also checks on Austudy students.) It would be good practice to include a job description in the practicum form so that the interface between the course of study and the on-job role is seamless and the terminology is right. Besides, it makes more sense to tell a student that they are learning how to do what is described in their Job Description.

We need to prevent the situation where Centrelink could say What you're doing isn't study and the job description from another organization proves it. So why should you get Austudy? Perhaps they might even argue that it is technically a traineeship, for which some very different rules apply. This is the scenario we need to avoid, and it is simply a matter of getting the paperwork


How much time for Austudy?
Internship contact hours are important for Austudy and we should also be able to demonstrate that Austudy students are spending the full-time amount of time in learning-related activities. Centrelink requires over twenty hours per week, and ACAS often allocates about 30-35 hours per week for the duration of ACAS semesters. This can be longer, for example, the 40-week year of primary and high schools, which churches also tend to follow.

The factors in setting a schedule:
• The Australian Qualification Framework now incorporates a system called volume of learning, the essence of which is that students must be given substantial amounts of time to achieve learning goals. The recommended times are not rigid, but the intention is to eliminate quickie programs. They generally allow much more time than nominal hours, which are used to calculate funding.
• Most students do spend approximately that amount of time (and sometimes much more), and many spread it out over a longer year.
• Many students want at least some each week to have a part-time job.

Is this a traineeship?
You can not (at all, ever) call students trainees or apprentices, because those words have clear, specific meanings in TrainingSpeak and would imply that students are getting Austudy fraudulently. Here's why. Traineeships and apprenticeships are very different. Trainees and apprentices are employed and the government gives payments to employers. There's another whole layer of paperwork, and you can't get Austudy for them.

Is this volunteer community work?
Centrelink doesn't pay for any volunteer community work that is not part of the instruction and assessment of the course; it is a student holiday activity. It is quite legitimate to teach by internship on Austudy, but the term volunteer community work could confuse Centrelink staff if they can't see that it is fully part of a delivery and assessment system. Consequently, if you run an internship and include community projects, you will need to clearly either:
• separate them off as extra-curricular activities, or
• include them in your training as assessment structure and documentation, in which case you should include them in your academic calendar.

Can we fast-track a 12-month program in six months?
Yes, if the student is assessed as having all competencies within six months. The ACAS and Austudy application procedures are just the same as if the students were doing it in the normal time. It's just that the student presents as ready for final assessment after one semester. Of course, they must tell Centrelink that they've graduated. They'd have to be very good, and might have a large component of unassessed prior learning.

However, it would be a mistake to force students to be finished in less than the volume of learning. You would be open to the accusation of being a quickie program.