Unorganised, lazy, carefree, dishevelled.....and probably drunk.

These were the words that used to spring to mind when I thought of university students.

Admittedly, this was probably a reflection of the three years I spent ‘furthering my education” at university in the UK in the late 1990’s. Back then your three years at uni were about heading as far away from home as possible and having a blast, gaining some ‘life skills’ and hopefully walking away with a half-decent degree.....in that order of priority!

I’ll put my hand up and admit that when I moved from the corporate world to the tertiary education sector five years ago, I arrived with some pretty strong stereotypes about students I would soon be working with.

How wrong I was.

Arriving at the University of Auckland Business School, I was stunned to encounter students who were smart, savvy, hyper-focussed and completely professional. They were far more likely to be drinking a soy decaf flat white than a bottle of Speights!

How on earth were the students able to afford all these coffees and cafe food.....not to mention the latest smart phone? As I got to know them, I found that the majority had at least one part-time job and many were working in summer internships, which often paid decent salaries. A large number were working as tutors and lab assistants on campus.

But they were often doing more than studying and working. Many were working for charities, community groups and not -for-profits. Some were spending hours each week running student clubs. All of this while still holding down stellar academic grades!  These were well-rounded young people. This was a different breed of university student to the one I knew.

University students today are a really interesting bunch. Yes, they fulfil all the generational stereotypes of being ‘all about me’ and seeking instant gratification. But I’ve also found them to have very strong sense of ethics, community and environmental awareness. When meeting with graduate employers the students are usually as interested in their company culture and values as they are in whether they’ll get a company lap top and mobile phone.

I’m aware I have painted a picture of this perfect group of uber-students. Reality of course means that there are a number of students at universities across New Zealand who are closer to my 1990’s stereotype than to those I have described above. I’m also aware that perhaps Business Schools attract a certain type of student. But what I would say is that overall the country has a significant pool of fantastic students who are talented, bright and will add value to any business - both now and in the future after they graduate.

Unfortunately, compared to their overseas counterparts, many New Zealand businesses are missing an amazing opportunity to utilise these bright young minds as interns and graduates. As the skills shortage intensifies over the coming years, employing young talent is a great way to add value to your business.

There are many things I love about my job, but at the forefront is working with this paradoxical but highly talented group of young people. I often tell those who bemoan the ‘youth of today’ that the future is in fact going to be in very safe hands…..possibly safer and more dynamic, ethical and equitable than we have ever known.

Keep an eye out for part two of our blog next week, where we highlight the benefits an intern can bring to your business.

 

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