The student workforce: the smart choice for businesses post-COVID

The widespread effects of the pandemic on practically every industry have forced businesses to revise their budgets to remain in a position of financial stability.

Written by Joseph Black, Co-Founder of UniTaskr

While adaptability and resilience are critical, more businesses are looking to reduce their financial risks through outsourcing.

Information Age recently reported that almost a third of UK companies are considering outsourcing in at least one area of their company following the COVID-19 crisis. Given the fierce competition across every sector, companies must look for ways they can improve efficiency and reduce costs to allow more resources to be directed towards revenue-generating activities.

While most small to medium sized businesses already understand the competitive advantage outsourcing offers, forward-thinking companies are also beginning to look to the largely untapped student workforce.

Advances in technology have made it easier than ever for companies to benefit from outsourcing services, and university students offer additional advantages for businesses seeking new ways to increase their efficiency and profitability post-pandemic.

Improving your bottom line

Research from software company, Avalara, found that utilising freelance and contract workers could save between 30% – 50% over employing full-time staff, while allowing access to talent that smaller companies likely could not otherwise afford. Students extend these cost-saving benefits, as they possess greater flexibility and vastly reduced overheads when compared with traditional contract workers, allowing them to charge less for their services.

This has obvious short-term benefits, allowing in-house talent to focus on areas that better leverage their skill sets, while freeing up more of the budget towards employees that can generate revenue. However, there are also a long-term advantage to this model besides reducing hiring costs. Outsourcing to the student workforce means businesses can invest early in essentially creating a future workforce within their industry or sector – offering substantial savings in the long-run.

Increasing efficiency

So many business owners fall into the trap of trying to manage everything themselves, only to find their time completely consumed with managing the operational logistics of their company instead of being front and centre in their growing business.

According to research from Big Commerce, less than 15% of business owners report feeling like they are spending their time on the right activities. With elevated costs and competition as a result of the pandemic, it is crucial to find smarter strategies for dealing with time-consuming tasks that generate no revenue and eat into your precious time.

Outsourcing these onerous tasks to student contractors allows you to redirect your priorities as a business owner to the tasks that will help your business grow, while focusing on your core competencies. The greater flexibility of the student workforce is of particular benefit here when compared with other freelancers, as you can more effectively scale your staffing needs according to specific projects or seasons.

Supporting the future of the economy and small businesses

Students all to often struggle to find opportunities that enable them to gain valuable real-world experience and earn money at the same time, while putting their expertise to practical use. Similarly, many industries such as biotechnology and manufacturing are faced with worker shortages, challenges which have been further compounded by the effects of COVID-19.

According to statistics from the UN Sustainable Development Goals, around 75 million young people are unemployed worldwide, with the need to create 470 million new jobs by 2030 to sustain a growing global workforce. Businesses that outsource to university students are not only contributing to supporting student employment and the development of graduate skills, but are actively helping to support business and local economic growth in the long-term.

The student workforce offers companies a way to bridge the gap between education and the business community, and works as a powerful tool for connecting students with small businesses and career paths they may not have otherwise been exposed to. With small businesses making up over 99% of companies in the UK, and 50% of the private sector workforce, it is important to expose the next generation about to enter the talent pool to the challenges and opportunities faced by smaller enterprises.

Tapping into new talent

Clearly, students represent a huge pool of untapped talent, and are equipped with the most up-to-date knowledge in their respective industries. As businesses seek new and innovative ways to remain competitive in a post-pandemic landscape, the student workforce presents a potent opportunity.

Technological developments have allowed for an easy way for companies to have access to emerging talent. Hiring costs are kept low, while students can put their knowledge to practical use, developing skills that add value to a business – in short, a positive outcome for students, businesses and communities alike.