The placement in colleges is a crucially formative experience for trainee teachers on pre-service Further Education (FE) initial teacher training courses. A project at the University of Huddersfield researched these placements in four colleges in the north of England and the relationships that were formed between the trainees, their mentors, other staff and students. Where the trainees were placed and who they taught were often matters of expedience, and their individual circumstances were contingent upon diverse, often local, factors. As such, the picture that emerged of the lived experience of placement defied simple classification and explanation. Drawing on data gathered during the project this paper argues that the experience of placements is characterised by confusion, insecurity and marginalisation on the one hand and integration, enthusiasm and development on the other. Regardless of their individual experience, however, there is evidence that the trainees learnt to cope and even that messiness may be useful preparation for the unstable FE workplace. The paper problematises the developmental basis for placements and questions what constitutes a successful placement before considering how trainees can be best prepared to teach in the FE sector.