Students’ site helps firms make the perfect match

Most HR managers have had good and bad experiences of the student placement

When the student fits in, works well and is given a full-time job at the end
of it, the system has provided an effective and low-cost method of recruitment.

But when the student doesn’t fit in or have the attributes to secure a job
afterwards, it can do more harm than good – the company has wasted time and
resources and the student goes back to college telling his or her peers that he
or she wouldn’t work for the company if you paid them.

Four students from Manchester, however, are set to change the face of the
placement system via an Internet-based matching service, which will enable HR
departments to target the right kind of students for their company.

The ukplacements idea is based on a model they’ve seen in the US, whereby
companies can potentially save $6,200 (£4,320) by recruiting undergraduates
compared to what it would cost to recruit them as a graduate.

"When we were setting up our own placements we found it was difficult
to find which companies offered which placements and corporate websites didn’t
show sufficient interest in this area," says one of the founders, Usman
Malik, 22 who, like co-founders Adeel Quyoum, 21, and Shabir Ahmed, 25, have
yet to graduate from Salford University, having taken a year out after their
own placement to set-up and run the business.

The fourth director, Mohsin Siddique, 21, has already graduated from Umist
and did his placement at Kimberley Clark.

At the end of 1999, they came up with the idea of a network that would
feature profiles of the kind of students the companies are looking for and
which gave them the chance to match their abilities and desires with vacancies.

They progressed the business plan and, despite the dotcom doom and gloom in
the second half of last year, impressed Carabiner Capital enough to get the
backing they needed.

"We decided that rather than partner student websites, we’d go to
corporates and let them tap into the talent," explains Malik, who adds
that it enables a company to target a good student two to three years in

Revenue comes from a flat fee charged to the corporate, rather than a
per-vacancy charge, and packages range from £3,000 to £10,000. Students sign up
for free.

The service has been live since February, and firms including Accenture,
Eaton Corporation and Fidelity Investment have already signed up.

Accenture recruitment manager Helen Glasgow says she is impressed. "You
could tell they’d really thought it through. We’ve signed up for a year,
because I feel you’ve got to give it that long to analyse the results, but
already we’ve had quite a few CVs that have come via ukplacements."

Corporates can post news and updates on the site, so they can be in direct
contact with the student community. Glasgow says, "We’re trying to broaden
our reach because a lot of people think we’ll only be interested in students on
business or senior management-related courses, but Accenture recruits from any
degree, so it helps us get that message across. It’s also helping us build our
profile in the IT and technology sector."

Usman believes this service will become increasingly significant in an age
of self-funded higher education. "Many students come out with debts of
£4,000 plus, so they are looking to secure a job much earlier to get a return
on their investment. They’re also looking at the companies that they might like
to work for much earlier," he says.

At some point, Malik, Quyoum and Ahmed have to find time to go back to
university, but they remain committed to the business, which has a natural fit
in the age of e-HR and corporate websites.

"I could certainly see it working at intranet-level," says Usman.
"Basically, we’ll listen, and do whatever firms want us to do."

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