How to Hire a Student to Help You Expand Your Business

As a small business, you may wonder whether hiring a post-secondary student is a good use of your time. After all, it takes time to recruit and onboard a student. Is it worthwhile as compared to hiring a regular employee?

There are many advantages to working with a student, but one that’s not often considered is the fact that students are a temporary commitment with a big upside.

For example, do you have a short-term project but don’t have the capacity to take on anything else? Have you just landed a contract and need to bring on someone to assist with the additional workload? Or maybe you’re short-staffed and need to hire someone to fill a gap in the workplace.

Post-secondary students can be available for a few weeks, a few months, or longer placements of four, eight or twelve months. And, they bring the latest skills, new perspectives and plenty of enthusiasm to the task. Thousands of work-integrated learning (WIL) students across BC are seeking work opportunities that are tied directly to their area of study and allow them to gain practical, applied experience to complement the theory they’ve learned in the classroom.

While there is a time investment up front to recruit and onboard a student, post-secondary institutions are geared up to help you though the process and once you have your student on board, you’ll quickly reap the benefits of having the extra support.

Step 1 – Determine Your Needs

Think about the work you want to accomplish and start drafting up a job description, listing both the duties the student would be completing as well as skills you’re looking for in a successful candidate. Be sure to include some background information about your organization as well.

Keep in mind that in feedback received from previous employers, students often finish up their tasks faster than anticipated, so plan on having some extra back-up tasks on-hand, just in case.

In terms of timing and duration of the work placement, co-op students generally start their four or eight-month full-time work terms in January, May, or September, whereas an intern or practicum student may be available part-time or for a shorter duration at a particular time of the year.

Another consideration is whether the student will be paid or not paid. Usually this is dictated by the student’s program. However, if it is a paid position, there may be federal or provincial funding that can offset the student’s wages.

Step 2 – Hire a Student

When you have your job posting ready, submit it through the Association for Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning BC/Yukon (ACE-WIL) job portal and you’ll be able to select multiple post-secondary institutions and programs areas that best match your position. The ACE-WIL portal will automatically send your posting to the institutions you’ve selected.

Once in the hands of the institutions, they’ll facilitate the collection of applications. Some will even be able to help coordinate interviews, depending on the type of program you are hiring from.

After you’ve completed interviews, be prepared to make an offer fairly quickly and once the student has accepted your offer, determine the start and end date for employment with the student and collect any HR-related info in order to get them on payroll, should you be hiring for a paid position.

Step 3 – Logistics

Now that you know who will be joining your team, and when, you’ll have to determine the logistics of bringing someone new on-board. You’ll go through the same steps when hiring a student as you would with a regular employee.

Here are some things to consider. When working onsite, will you have a computer set up for them and a desk/office/lab space? Will they need access to a phone? A vehicle? If the student will be working from home, do you have a laptop available, as well as any other necessary tech items that might be required, such as a printer, headphones, or a webcam? Will you have a work e-mail address set up for them and are there any security processes that need to be taken care of ahead of time? Has your payroll person been notified about your new hire? Or, for unpaid positions, what information will you need for your records?

Step 4 – Supervision

Determine who will supervise the student and have them plan on meeting the student regularly, whether it’s a daily 10-minute check-in or a weekly half-hour meeting, especially at the start. They should be prepared to offer guidance to the student, answer any questions, and provide feedback.

As well, figure out what the first few days on-the-job will look like: who will meet with the student to get them settled and introduce them to their new colleagues? Will the student get started on their tasks right away or will they be required to do research/reading to get them up-to-speed before they start their duties?

Finally, because this is an educational program, the supervisor should be prepared to provide feedback, whether it’s at regular one-on-one meetings with the student, at a mid-term check-in with a representative from the student’s academic institution, and/or completing a final evaluation form that will be required by the institution.

Reaping the Benefits

Hiring a student doesn’t have to be a challenge and can provide both short- and long-term benefits. Students are eager-to-learn, bring a fresh perspective and energy to your organization, and can be more cost-effective than hiring contractors or going through a temp agency.

As well, many businesses use these student placements as a recruitment tool, as it provides an opportunity to scout for upcoming talent. You’ll have experience working with the student and can evaluate their performance before committing to hiring into a permanent role. Some businesses opt to keep a student on part-time until they graduate.

Working with students provides you with the flexibility you need as a small business and helps build a stronger future workforce for BC. For more information and resources, including new advisory programs Talent Forward and Talent MATCH, visit the ACE-WIL website.