My three children are still too young for a student job. Unlike 80%(!) of all those over 15 years old in education in this country. The majority of these students earns some extra cash as cashiers, administrative assistants, warehouse operatives or production workers.
Almost 60% of all these jobbing students are working during the summer months as well as throughout the academic year. In addition, they are also working more than before - 61 days per year instead of 50. I don’t intend to baffle you with figures from our annual student study, but the upward trend is gaining momentum year after year. The employment market scarcity and the easing of the student employment rules since 2017 have played a significant role in this. This combination of labour shortages on the one hand and the growing supply of students willing to work also triggers negative side effects. Some businesses regard and utilise student labour purely as a fast, cost-efficient staffing solution. They are grabbing the low-hanging fruit, yet disregard the real potential of the talent they are welcoming. So as an employer don’t look for the return on investment in the cost balance. The real value is in the potential of student jobs as a recruitment channel. This is underestimated all too often.
“A study-related part-time job is a relevant recruitment project for businesses.
The same is true the other way around: students use short-term thinking to make decisions and fail to realise that student jobs also provide experience for a stronger CV when they are ready to step onto the employment ladder. Since 2012, ‘Randstad Young Talents’ has built bridges between businesses and students: a collaboration with companies and start-ups to create study-related part-time jobs and graduate jobs. These are jobs that both boost the CV and yield the necessary intrinsic added value for the business, and at the same time do not pose a threat to the regular employee contracts. They could be called ‘plus’ jobs. Jobs or projects that were shelved a while ago and for which companies could not or would not release the resources, people or time, now dusted off and allocated to students. Students who not only gain study-related experience, but also get to know the company. As many as 84% of those students opt for the same employer when choosing their next (student) job. From this we can see there is great progression from the study-relevant part-time job to a permanent role within the company. The figures confirm how, in times of growing work scarcity, student labour can be a valuable recruitment channel for employers.
However, the positive messages are interspersed with concerns. Parents fear for the study results achieved by their sons and daughters. This is unfounded, says Stijn Baert. According to the employment market expert from Ghent University, not a single bit of research has shown that working has a negative impact on studying. My experience has taught me that we should offer young people an insight into their own talents. It is extremely important for young people to gain work experience during their studies. Take it from me, employers are not looking for school-leavers who have never set foot in a company. However, it is equally important that the young person does not overestimate his or her capabilities.
‘Can you fit in a job like that alongside your studies?’, is the first rational question Randstad Young Talents asks.
Studying must always be a priority, but students must also learn to find the right balance for them. It stands them in good stead for their future professional life. For this reason, I pass the buck to the young people (44%) who stated in our research that working during the academic year has a negative impact on study achievements.
Just to be clear, I am deliberately not ranking the study-relevant part-time job above or below an internship. Both models represent an equal and relevant learning platform, but with completely different angles, drive and dynamics. Paid work puts both the employer and the student in a different mindset. During the late 90s, I was still a student myself when I worked as a hostess for André Oosterlinck, rector at the KU Leuven. And on top of learning in spades, I also wanted to clock up excellent achievements. The fact I was getting paid was an extra incentive for me. On the other hand, my employer felt the salary meant the bar could be placed higher.
An internship is less focused on the economic return on investment for the organisation or company; the student is mainly there to learn. As such, the context of an internship means the employer adapts the job content and objectives. No tough KPIs for the intern, unlike for the jobbing student.
My bottom line? The faster a student steers towards the right choice and orientation, the faster he or she can be deployed in the employment market.
I may speak from the viewpoint of my sector, but it may be an idea to insert a fulltime, study-relevant year of work between the bachelor and master years, for instance? This would then integrate both worlds within the course and students start their final year with a backpack full of practical knowledge and work experience. Dual learning essentially strives to achieve the same cross-pollination. The lifelong combination of working and learning will become the new norm all the same. The sooner you start, the more productive it becomes for everyone.
Vivian Roks – Innovation Lead Randstad