For college students looking forward to the university experience, paying a hefty university price tag to sit in their parents’ living room or in an isolated dorm room and taking online classes is a potential disappointment.  So, some students have opted for local community college classes this year, while others have decided to sit this year out and take a COVID-19 gap year. Only 2.5 percent of colleges are planning a fully in-person semester this upcoming year. Rather than spend a year staring at Zoom, some students have taken the semester off. Startups are starting to see this as an opportunity to recruit these students into virtual fall internships. So can smaller companies.

Companies, especially small companies hit hard by lay-offs and now coming back see this trend as an opportunity. Remote internships and virtual gap years are now being presented as an alternative to college students looking to do something different this year. Even Silicon Valley has noticed and multiple firms are extending their paid internship programs to interns who would rather work than go back to school. Startups and small companies are now competing for these talented students. The virtual nature of the internships could allow local companies access to a nationwide talent pool. And these companies hope that the potential employees they hook this fall might stay on in the years to come, rather than taking spots at large tech companies.

Here are several possible benefits on why startups and smaller companies should consider recruiting college students who may be sitting out via a gap year.

Better Manage Your Workforce.  While many businesses have seen a “summer slump,” some did not. Even if your business does slow down a touch during the summer months, you may still benefit from hiring a student or two. Hiring talented college students may be the prefect alternative in either coming back or ramping up.

Special Projects Don’t’ Wait. Hiring college and university students may also allow you to tackle special projects you wouldn’t otherwise get to complete. An example might be launching new email campaigns, or converting a legacy database to a cloud based solution. This is often important work, but your current employees don’t have time to carry it out. A student could provide the knowledgeable resource you need to complete these important tasks.

Recruit The Next Great Employee. Today’s college and university students are the workforce of tomorrow. The students you hire on today may not be working on your team permanently right now as they take a gap year, but you may want to consider bringing them back in the future. At the same time as they’re gaining practical experience, you might discover your next great employee who fits into your culture and has similar values. Companies like Patagonia have learned this well, as many of their current employees were former interns.

College Students Are Technology Savvy. College students may get a bad reputation for texting or using social media for communicating, but these skills can add value to your business. While companies are trying to figure out how to maximize social media to promote their offers, recent graduates who grew up with a phone or device in their hand are experts at this and understand how to connect with others using multiple types of media. Some know how to program and design applications from tinkering on their own. They also bring use of new apps and programming used at school to businesses such as Adobe Creative Suite, YouTube, and Dropbox to create efficiencies in companies seeking change.

Willingness to Take On Challenges. Even though they may lack work experience, college students are more willing to take on risks. They may be more flexible, work well remotely and embrace new opportunities. They are not held back by the same financial and geographic requirements of your current employees. They are willing to travel if necessary, and see challenges as opportunities to excel.

If you are growing rapidly or just coming back from the pandemic, you may want to consider hiring a gap year college student. You company will benefit and so will they.

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