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How to Create a Work-Study Balance for Employees

You would like to hire students? What a great initiative! Here is how to create a work-study balance for those employees.

Employer Branding
Work environment

Anne-Marie Battista

Thursday, October 02, 2014

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Despite all the clichés and platitudes we hear about the younger generations, there are many students that are responsible, conscientious, and motivated. They also show great potential and have unbounded energy, which are qualities that make them particularly interesting candidates for certain jobs!

Nevertheless, although students are motived and are ready to do whatever it takes to work, the responsibility of offering jobs that allow students to continue their schooling and to progress in their professional development in a reasonable and healthy way falls to the employer, the responsible adult and corporate citizen. In this respect, here is how to offer a job while promoting work-study balance.

Encourage them to attend class

We are all members of a privileged society, employers as well as citizens, so having well-educated youth benefits us all. Be sure to promote further education by encouraging class attendance. Your student-employees need to know that school comes first since, sooner or later, that’s what will make them accomplished and competent employees.

Opt for clear messages: when hiring, or during follow-up meetings, clearly explain and reiterate that their studies have priority. There’s a reason why the word “study” has its place in the expression “work-study balance”!

However, that does not mean that you’ll permit students to slack off in their work; plan their jobs in such a way that their tasks can be done based on a part-time work schedule, and also ensure that it doesn’t affect your regular employees’ work.

Adjust your expectations

When you are drafting a student-employee job description, make sure to adjust your expectations. Although they might be intelligent, even the best of your student-employees have their limits due to their level of development as young adults.

Be patient, understanding, and perceptive: plan the task level according to the young employee’s qualifications and skills. You will then avoid being disappointed by their performance as well as avoid overwhelming them. In the best case scenario, you could be pleasantly surprised by a student-employee’s development and could help contribute to their professional growth by developing an appropriate training plan.

Promote education

Let your words and actions promote education as well as underline its importance in an employee’s career. Ensure that all managers in the company promote the same thing, whether it is in managing the schedules or in their dealings with the employees.

It is an effective way to be seen as a mentor and as a resourceful person by your student-employees. Students will seek your approval and will follow your example, so be sure to impart sound values that represent your organization: a company where education is a first-choice investment!

Have reasonable schedules

Students’ availability varies according to their education level. In this regard, a student from secondary school can only work a few hours on weeknights and full days on weekends for an employer. The student must be present for classes that begin at the end of August and that end in the third week of June.

Undergraduate students (who go to college or university) have varying school schedules which can require their presence at certain times of the day or evening. Usually, unless there are exceptions, they don’t have classes on weekends. Their classes start at the end of August or at the beginning of September respectively, and finish at the end of May or April.

It is known that working too many hours is one of the causes for dropping out of school. To avoid this worst case scenario, a student’s ideal work schedule should not exceed 15-20 hours a week during the school year.

Create an ongoing dialogue

Make yourself available for your student-employees so they can inform you of any changes in their school life: pedagogical day, reading week, student strike, vacation, orientation or welcome meeting, exam and project periods, internship, etc.

Do not hesitate to go ahead and ask these employees about their schooling as well as inquire about important periods of the school year. Whether they are shy, fearful, or forgetful, students can fail to talk to you about those things.

Once you have an overview of their semester, you will be able to plan a lighter schedule during exam periods and to have them work more hours during the winter and summer vacations. Having that information will also allow you to avoid being caught off guard by unplanned absences due to exam periods and periods where they have to hand in a lot of projects.

These meetings and discussions, whether they be formal or not, will allow you to assess the state of these employees. Be watchful for signs of tiredness and stress. Despite their young age, they are not immune to exhaustion. If necessary, have a discussion with the employee in order to find solutions and to take the necessary measures to fix the situation.

Invest in them

It wouldn’t be right to refuse to invest the same effort and resources for your student-employees as you do for your regular employees. Although they can only offer limited working hours on a temporary basis, students represent a pool of very interesting candidates for your company.

Instead, make use of this occasion to identify the students who show the most potential and train them gradually in the hopes of permanently hiring them at the end of their schooling. But please, let them finish their studies first before offering them a permanent position!

That way, you will help fight against dropping out of school and will increase your employees’ education level. You can also promote school completion by participating in a cooperative education program.

This approach, which mainly focuses on vocational and technical training, allows you to welcome students by way of an internship that combines their presence in class and their presence in the workplace (work-study balance), and – you guessed it – it potentially makes recruiting qualified staff easier for you.

On another note, the best time of the year to hire students is during summer vacation. Offering them a full-time job for the summer will meet the employer’s needs as well as the students’. However, although the job may not directly relate to their studies, it isn’t of much consequence because they will be able to apply for a job in the same company once they have graduated, and will have the advantage of having previously worked there.

It is also a good way to recognize their loyalty. So consider underlining their dedication by offering them an in-house career plan. As you well know, the shortage of labor forces employers to be more creative when hiring, and makes them look for long-term solutions.

So, with good planning, hiring students will allow you to ensure their loyalty to your company during their studies; it will also allow you to train them properly and to prepare the future generation of workers.

Follow the law and regulations!

Always be cautious of the laws and regulations concerning hiring individuals under the age of 18 in your area. Different regions have different laws that limit the jobs and practices that can be offered to students and minors, so be sure to take that into account when drafting them a job offer.

Concerning the organization’s procedures and union regulations, you need to know that students can sometimes be exempted from union regulations in order to have a more flexible schedule. So, don’t hesitate to consult your internal resources if need be.

Hiring young students can sometimes require you to invest a lot of time and effort. However, on top of being an educational experience, it also contributes to the training of the next generation of qualified workers. Also keep in mind that you, a professional of today, were once a student who was given a first chance as well.

So be open-minded and welcoming because the new generation of employees could very well surprise you – provided of course that we give them the chance to prove themselves and to complete their studies in a healthy and understanding environment, aka work-study balance!

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