IT sector ponders summer students

Students are being touted as a stop-gap staff measure for IT departments, though managers say they will hire based on need and skills.

Students are being touted as a stop-gap staff measure for IT departments, though managers say they will hire based on need and skills.

Student Job Search service has begun to offer "skill seekers" candidates, covering IT, accounting, law, marketing and other professions.

SJS business development manager Robert Hutton hopes expanding from placing students into low-skilled work to include the professions will help employers fill skill shortages, though he acknowledges the IT sector now has fewer of these.

"We have gone through the IT employers' database," says Hutton. "It is very hard out there for IT students. But companies are proactive and trying to help because there is a social responsibility."

Student Job Search is already placing students in the IT sector, mainly in website management, working on projects under supervision or on relief work, Hutton says. The programme, which aims to provide students with summer jobs, has a database of 40,000 students nationwide, with the skill seekers arm holding records on 5000.

Employers who place a vacancy with SJS are provided CVs of prescreened students for interview.

IT managers told Computerworld last week that they already employ students, so the new scheme may not make an instant impact.

Restaurant Brands IT manager Kerry Cross says his firm already offers a few work placements to students as part of their coursework in the data warehousing and networking areas. Sometimes the company sponsors students on various courses, or it will pay student expenses as the jobs offered are seen as work experience rather than proper jobs. And whether Restaurant Brands would use skill seekers candidates would "depend on the people", Cross says.

Mark Hales, IT manager at shipping firm SeaTrans, says his firm uses students in other areas and finds them to be good workers, but SeaTrans has no openings for IT students this year. "Maybe next year," Hales says.

Nelson-based Sealord already takes on students from the local polytechnic to reconfigure PCs, relay cables and perform general tasks, says IS manager Andrew Dean. Dean was unsure whether the fish processor would need any this year but says in previous years such vacation work has led to the students being offered permanent jobs.

Cavalier Bremworth IT manager Mark McElroy confirms that past trend. While the carpetmaker usually has no summer work for students, he admits, "I was once a student taken on ... many, many years ago."

Rather than be seen as a source of cheap labour, Hutton says the programmes should be seen as a way of providing students with suitable work experience to help them gain jobs on graduation and thus avoid using hardship programmes over the summer.

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