Universities are increasingly providing undergraduates with opportunities for paid work, appointing them for roles on campus. These tend to be enthusiastically welcomed by students, both for the money earned and the professional experience provided. With concerns over tuition costs and rising student debt levels, this is hardly surprising. But it certainly isn’t new. Although these programs for student employment are becoming more prevalent, it’s been a fairly common practice in our customers’ media stores for quite some time.
Often the approach to hiring students is that if there’s work to be done, and it’s appropriate and practicable for students to do it, they can be given preference for filling a vacancy. As well as enabling students to earn while they study, it often means posts are filled more quickly and with less time spent on search and selection. In the case of media stores, it also provides extra resource to open longer hours. There are some common caveats though. The posts are temporary and usually for periods of a few months only. They involve part-time hours to allow a fit with study commitments, and avoid student holidays.
Above: a recruitment notice from a UK university media store counter. Top: A student worker at Cal Poly (California Polytechnic State University) uses connect2 to manage equipment checkouts.
Learning from the US
Student worker programs are very much the norm in the US, with students often expected to work and earn their way through college. In fact, there are studies referenced by US institutions that claim working students do just as well or better academically than those that don’t. Further claims state that grades improve as working hours increase (to a maximum of 20 hours per week) and that student workers are more likely to complete their degrees. Many think it helps them structure their time better and gives a greater sense of community and involvement with their institution, on top of easing the financial burden. It also adds to their experience knowing that the transferable skills they are learning will demonstrate they are ‘job-ready’ once they’ve graduated. In some cases, students are able to achieve career progression, assuming greater responsibility and a supervisory status over other student workers. A varied program also gives an opportunity for students to sample different career choices, adding to their overall experience of higher education.
Smart recruitment decisions
So we can see that hiring your own students amounts to an arrangement of mutual benefit. The advantages tend to increase when students are hired from within their own department though. In the case of media store employment, students’ familiarity of handling the kit as part of their courses – for example journalism, photography or media production – adds to the department’s pool of expertise. It also ensures the new recruits are quickly up and running when helping other students to borrow the equipment.
The arrangement functions particularly well when the department has operations structured in a way that are quick and easy for new workers to grasp. This is the case for our connect2 university customers who are able to get students coordinating equipment loans with minimal training. It includes media stores at Oxford Brookes University, Middlesex University and Coventry University. The connect2 software provides sound workflows, data and permissions which support less experienced workers while assisting team communication.
Here’s how connect2 helps:
- It supports varying levels of authority and responsibility, so student workers can checkout/in equipment for a fast professional service, but with override and administrative functions provided only to those staff with a permanent or more senior role
- The system automatically recognises who is permitted to borrow each resource. Integration to the student database makes it impossible for staff using connect2 to issue equipment to unauthorised borrowers, so avoiding these mistakes even when new to the job
- It enables permissioned workers to change the ‘status’ of resources, e.g. broken or lost, and to add notes in the system, so that a central online record is kept of any issues as items are checked in or out. This really eases communication between team members working different shifts
- A remote overview of all scheduled and completed checkout/in activity enables managers to monitor the desk while working elsewhere. They can see how well their team is coping during periods of heavier traffic. They can also plan ahead and adjust staffing rotas if needed
- An enduring record is kept of all equipment lending activity, so that it’s always known who has got each item at any time regardless of who performed the checkout. The student worker simply checks in and out each item using a barcode scanner, and the information is stored in the online system for tracking and reporting
Student workers, connect2 and the future
Media store student workers have already built up a great track record, adding flexibility in how long the service can stay open and the range of knowledge available at the desk at any time. With the kind of support provided by connect2, media stores are in a stronger position to offer work experience to students, helping them to meet the growing need to earn money and demonstrate employability.
Talk to Lorensbergs about how connect2 supports a student worker environment, for greater job satisfaction, fewer training needs, and a more efficient operation.