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In a tough job market, smart uni students are bulking up CVs through agency work placements

As uni students prepare to enter one of the toughest job markets in decades, some are using agency work to get a leg up on their fellow students and soon to be job competitors.

Agency work - an emerging style of work where a job agent finds you work in your desired field (or a variety of jobs if you haven’t yet landed on a career path) - is allowing students like Eliza and Callum to be placed in jobs related to their field of study, rather than cobbling together work at a retail outlet or cafe to make ends meet.

Callum, 22, was studying to become a civil engineer at the University of Queensland when he decided to supplement his final year of study with agency work. He became a labourer on key sites around South East Queensland. For him agency work had many benefits.

‘It was a great opportunity to connect to key employers within my field and earn an income while studying.

‘It gave me a foot in the door for a job in my chosen area straight out of university. A lot of my mates were still looking for work or had to move to get it.’

Callum is now working as a full time civil engineer on some of Queensland’s leading residential and commercial projects around Brisbane and Ipswich.

In a totally different industry Eliza 25, also found her niche. Finishing her teacher training course mid 2020, options for graduate teachers at that time were pretty limited. Agency work was a good solution.

‘It was an opportunity for me to gain experience as a teacher, being fresh out of university. It will help me get a permanent job down the track.’

‘The pay is better than most retail or hospitality jobs I could get as a student. The work is in shorter flexible hours so I can paint, play music and go for some long drives to unwind.

‘Some of my friends and family questioned me about taking agency work and asked me why I just didn't wait for a permanent job. But if I waited for that I might still be out of work.’

Charles Cameron, CEO of RCSA, the peak body for the recruitment and staffing industry in Australia and New Zealand says Agency work is a style of work perfectly suited to current conditions for both businesses and employees.

‘Agency work allows an employee to trial a variety of occupations and business types to see what they like and for employers who are not yet ready to commit to a permanent position. It’s a great way to slowly get your business back on track.

‘Agency Work is a pathway into permanent work, post COVID, especially for young workers who are looking for an opportunity.’

‘Increasingly employers are employing through agencies so I’d urge young people to register as agency workers. Gain experience, make contacts and develop your skills, all while being paid.’

Last year most young Australians aged 15-24 were doing at least some work or study, or a combination of both according to the ABS. But agency work has value beyond getting university students onto their preferred career path says Mr Cameron.

‘Agency work is an unrivalled sphere of work if you want to build a professional career, rather than floating from job to job.

‘You have an agent working on your behalf to get you in the best job for your skillset at the best possible level of remuneration or packaging,’ said Mr Cameron.

‘Melbourne University research in 2019 found that workers employed through Australian job Agencies are paid more than directly hired permanent employees, directly hired fixed term contract employees and directly hired casual workers.’

Agency workers are paid around 5% more than directly hired casuals.

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