So what is a vacation program?

July 11, 2018 by Susan Surgener

So what is a vacation program?

There’s always a lot of confusion around vacation programs because students and employers use all sorts of different terms to describe them. Words such as ‘internships’, ‘work experience’ and ‘intern programs’ are commonly used interchangeably, often to describe the same thing. But there can be significant differences.

Think of vacation programs as ‘formal’. That is, programs that are:

  • Paid
  • For a specified time – such as 12 weeks during late November to February or four weeks in June/July
  • Supervised and assessed on the job
  • Offered by the bigger, well-known organisations
  • Open to students from certain degrees; often – but not limited to – Commerce and Engineering majors
  • For students at a certain stage in their studies.

Vacation programs are targeted at penultimate year undergraduate students. Sometimes we do hear of gifted and confident first years who manage to break through the application process, but it’s rare. Postgrads in their first year can usually also apply.

The reason employers look for undergrad students around second year is because by then you’ve gone beyond the core – you’ve got more discipline specific knowledge.

Remember the ‘application rule’ – vacation programs before your final year, graduate programs during your final year. If you’ve left applying for vacation programs until your final year, you’re probably too late.

The Australian Association of Graduate Employers counts many of the bigger employers amongst their member base. Most of these employers are keen to promote their vacation programs to the best students as a priority because, increasingly, they will recruit the successful ‘vacationers’ directly into their graduate programs.

This definitely disadvantages students who aren’t in the know. You may find there’s a decrease in the number of graduate programs advertised the following March/April due to the vacancies having already been filled by ‘vac’ students.

So make sure you are one of those in the know! If you feel you’ve seen an opportunity you’re interested in and believe you have what it takes to succeed in it, APPLY!

Curtin Careers, Employment & Leadership will be running a workshop on “Applications for Vacation and Graduate Programs: Understand the process and how to stand out” early in Semester Two. Keep an eye on UniHub Events for the exact date, location and time.

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