19 Jul 2012

Olympic boost for students seeking summer work

The Olympic effect is hitting the summer job market – but only in London and the south east, recruitment agencies and employers tell Channel 4 News.

There is a surge in demand for hospitality staff in London (Getty)

While school-leavers and students in the US say they are being overlooked for a smaller pool of summer jobs against competition from older, unemployed people, Channel 4 News found that young people looking for holiday jobs in the UK’s capital are more fortunate.

Channel 4 News interviewed specialist student recruitment websites and employers that regularly take on summer staff to get a picture of holiday recruitment, and found there is more summer work available this year compared with previous years.

But though there appears to be a strong summer jobs market in certain sectors in London, our interviews showed students based away from the capital are finding it harder.

And there is evidence that some of the increase in job listings is in the form of advert unpaid internships.

‘Abnormal increase’

Figures provided by the recruitment website The Student Job revealed that London has experienced an “abnormal increase in the availability of part-time jobs” during summer 2012 compared to previous quarters.

The three sectors that have seen the biggest increase are hospitality, retail and telesales.

“We’ve seen a 40 per cent increase in the number of vacancies being advertised in London compared to quarter one 2012,” said the website’s founder Jack Tang.

The website Employment 4 Students (E4S) has seen an 56 per cent increase in jobs posted in May and June 2012, compared to the same months in 2011.

The website said that while some of this is down to increased sourcing of adverts, it believes there are “considerably more jobs available this summer that are relevant for students”.

Only 1 per cent of clients who posted job ads on E4S last summer are not recruiting this summer, it reported.

Olympic displacement

Chris Eccles, of E4S, said the Olympics has made it harder for companies in sectors such as events to find staff for this summer. “The Olympics has displaced workers in some sectors,” he said.

“One of our clients, Lords cricket ground, have told us that they are finding it harder to recruit staff for their summer season this year because of the Olympics. The Olympics has created jobs which have attracted some workers who would otherwise have applied for jobs at other event, retail or catering companies.”

Mr Eccles said he is also finding that students are increasingly considering “unconventional” jobs such as website testing, paid surveys, online freelancing.

Employers contacted by Channel 4 News included Sainsbury’s. “In the last two years we have employed in the region of 3,000 temporary workers over the summer period,” said a spokeswoman.

“Although we will not know our precise figures for this year for a few more months, as things stand we would expect to employ a broadly similar number.”

Internship boom

Another employer, consultants Ernst & Young, told Channel 4 News they have taken on 320 students for paid summer internships in 2012. This is fewer than the 350 they took on last year but more than the 200 they recruited in 2010.

A spokesman said the students would be working across its 17 UK offices, although the majority will be based at its head office in London.

There is one area of work that is growing, according to E4S – unpaid work. “Five years ago we did not have any companies approaching us to post unpaid internships, but now the practice is rife,” revealed Mr Eccles.

“There is a misconception that ‘interns’ do not need to be paid. Minimum wage legislation clearly states that any job with any kind of implied contract must pay the national minimum wage, apart from volunteers at registered charities.”

Those opting for internships are also finding increased opportunities further afield with companies in growing economies like China and India looking for UK students, he added.

“This year we have worked with nine companies who help place UK students in internships in China or India compared to one last year, and none in 2010. These types of opportunities are interesting options for students and recent graduates who are struggling to find work in the UK.”

Not recruiting

Students who contacted Channel 4 News revealed varying degrees of success in their summer job hunt.

They have resorted to lying about being a student so they could get the job, Amber Hicks, student

Student Amber Hicks has been looking for a job over the summer in the Swindon area. She had hoped to return to the high street fashion chain that she has worked on a temporary basis since she was 16, but her manager said that particular branch was not recruiting over the summer and did not have the hours to give out.

“This is the first time in my four years of working there where uni students have not been able to return to work there, as the store does not have enough hours,” she said.

“I have applied for various other jobs but have had no luck as they do not want temporary staff.”


But Ms Hicks revealed that some students have found a way round this stipulation: “I have heard from other people who were in the same situation as me had also applied to places on a temporary basis but were rejected,” she said.

“So instead of stating they could only work over the summer they have resorted to lying about being a student so they could get the job. Although it is not honest, it seems the only way students can get a job over the summer.”

“Another student, Ollie Tremlett, was more fortunate: “I was lucky enough to be given a summer job at my father’s company creating help file videos for his products,” he said.

“Sadly, nepotism is the only way you’re going to find yourself with a summer job, especially when you’re a student. I’d prefer not having to rely on my family to get me a job once I graduate, but with the limited opportunities out there, I’ll take what I’m given.”

Art student Michaela Manning is not looking for a job this summer but she said she has not too many problems in the past finding work in retail and call centres.

“In London it’s easy to find work as long as you are willing to travel. I found it most difficult in the medium-sized cities like Leicester and Canterbury, I find there is more competition per job there.”

“Last summer, in Lincoln, my employer informed me I was the only applicant to the advertised part-time retail job.”