A recent survey of studies on the school to work transition was particularly critical of English and Swedish compulsory work experience programs. This article reports on an Australian case study that reaches the opposite conclusion. The majority of participants in the Work for the Dole program are young people (under 25) who are struggling to find secure employment. Even though they are forced to undertake the program, over three‐quarters of participants rate the experience as “very satisfactory” or “satisfactory”. Participants value the work experience they receive if they feel they are learning and value the connection to the labour market from being included in their supervisor's informal network of contacts. The program appears successful in delivering “soft outcomes”, such as increased self‐esteem, improved communication and interpersonal skills, which ameliorate some of the negative impacts of unemployment on personal well‐being.
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