Don't think of students as oversensitive snowflakes

Students are rarely among the highest paid employees in a business - but they could help save many businesses, says this student entrepreneur

Alfie Payne

Student employment: Please don't fire us

Dear employers,

We know that the past eight months have been a real challenge for everyone, and especially for you as business owners. You have had to make tough choices, overhaul the way your business works, and witness your hard work be destroyed by a public health crisis. Most of us cannot begin to imagine how that feels: to have your hard work and livelihood be put on the line. 

As student workers, we are grateful for the Saturday morning shifts you give us to help out with the coffee rush. We are thankful for the Wednesday afternoon you pay us to help out your admin team. We are also grateful to the government for the furlough scheme, and appreciate its extension into the new year. 

But we cannot escape what is going to happen when this support is withdrawn – and the sheer scale of redundancies and lay-offs that are expected.  

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But I beg you, please think twice before getting rid of your student workers.

The chances are we are not your highest-paid employees. But that is not to say we are not highly skilled and can’t help your business bounce back. 

Lee may be a barista, but he is also a marketing student. While you may not have enough work for him to be front-of-house on his day off on Thursday, he could be building your brand a presence on social media and reaching out to new audiences, getting more customers through your door.

Grace is a business studies student. She could help come up with enterprising ideas to sell items online.

Joe is a graphic designer. He would love to create some leaflets to promote your pizza delivery service.

Bob has just finished his accounting exams. He could review the books, and double-check that everything is in line.

'We are not oversensitive snowflakes'

The list of opportunities for students to help support businesses is endless. We are versatile and adaptive – look at the way we pivoted to remote learning earlier this year, and hybrid learning in September.

Surrounding yourself with your young employees can, and will, help lift your spirits and business prospects. And do not forget: while on furlough, your adult staff can be retraining, too.

The government keeps telling us all that we are going to build back better and bounce back. But, for this to be the case, and not another bullshit Westminster three-part phrase, we need to be creative and innovative.

That is exactly what Gen Z and my millennial colleagues are. We’ve needed to be to deal with the bad hand we’ve been dealt by successive governments cutting access to the services we needed growing up, the financial crashes, and now the public health crisis. Do not think of us as oversensitive snowflakes, please. Instead, think of us as your partners, working together to get out of the crisis.

As the chancellor points out, not every job can be saved. We know that there will be lay-offs. But, before you are quick to get rid of your student workforce, I urge you to consult with us, and ask: how can we help you to save your business?


Alfie Payne is a media student from Hampshire

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