How to hire a tech-savvy student worker

Is your small business looking for a tech talent that can cover for a maternity leave? Are you ramping up for a project launch and need some extra IT workers? Or maybe business has been good and you’re just looking to give back to the community or industry?

For many businesses seeking to fill a temporary workforce gap, signing up a student or intern for a short term or part-time assignment is often a viable alternative to hiring full time employees.

Click here to learn: Where to get funding for hiring IT students

There are nearly 1 million 15- to 24-year-old students who work part-time in the country according to Statistics Canada.

Some business owners might worry about the caliber of training or competence they might get from interns and student workers, but IT training and career placement experts say that when done right, the strategy can be a win-win situation for both employer and employee.

A win-win situation

“I don’t see any downside to it,” said Blair McMurchy, director of professional and continuing education at Humber College, in Toronto. McMurchy handles student placements for the college’s internship program.

“If employers do their homework right, the end up with an energetic and highly trained individual eager to prove himself in the workplace. For the student, it is an opportunity to gain hands-on experience and valuable mentorship,” he told

He said Humber is approached regularly by both large enterprise companies as well as small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) with as little as 10 employees looking for students that can work part time for them.

The director said businesses search for students for a variety of reasons such as: covering for a maternity or extended leave; to meet a sudden surge in work; and as part of a company policy to hire interns and provide training and mentorship.

Humber offers several technology-related courses and employers seeking tech students often look for those with some training in the following areas:

  • Microsoft .Net
  • Oracle
  • Web design and development
  • Software development

McMurchy said while some employers do not compensate interns, there are students that receive some form of stipends from the companies while others are lucky enough to get salaries that could be anywhere from $10/hr to $25/hr.

For many schools internship programs are tied to a course and are a requirement to graduation. Humber is able to place 100 per cent of its 3,000 students yearly. About 80 per cent of that number or a little more than 600 are from IT-based courses.

“Typical internship programs last anywhere from seven weeks to four months. At the end of the program the students get a ‘thank you’ and a report of their progress. Others get an extension of employment or a offer for a full-time job,” said McMucrchy.

Saving money and cutting red tape

Hiring interns and students for part-time and temporary assignments can also save businesses money and time, according to Wendy Churchill, director of academic and employment services, at triOS College, an Ontario-based private career school specializing in technology, health care, law, business and animation courses.

SIDE BAR: 4 tips to get good grades when hiring a student

They may be interns or students, but if you are going to pay them, you will still have to deal with the Canadian Revenue Agency, according to Brad Card, senior payroll products manager for Intuit Canada. The company is the maker of QuickBooks Payroll, an accounting software product.

“Hiring students for part-time work is a great option for small businesses. But you have to follow rules to avoid fines and keep your staff happy,” he said.

For instance, he said, SMBs must maintain up-to-date records throughout a student’s employment. For the student employees, paying the proper taxes and taking accurate deductions can save them from owing money to the CRA at tax time, Card pointed out.

Card offered the following tips:

  • Before they start: If hiring an employee for the first time, register your business as an employer with the CRA. This will provide a payroll account allowing you to issue T4s and remit the necessary statutory deductions.
  • When they start: Among the connected generation, email and cell numbers are as critical as home phone and address. Ensure you have all of these up front, and their social insurance number and completed TD1 forms – both federal and provincial.
  • While they work: Applying accurate deductions is critical and tax changes can occur every six months. Students turning 18 must start paying into the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) in the month following their birthday.
  • When they leave: Prepare a record of employment, which must be provided to the employee within five days after their last day. Also be sure to retain your records. You are required to keep employee records for six years after they leave.

Some of the tech related programs that triOS offers are:

  • Wed design and Web Development
  • Networking and Engineering
  • Mobile Development
  • Tech Support
  • Video Game Development

Because students are taken in as part of a course program, employers are able to avoid some of the time-consuming processes associated with hiring regular employees she said. “Businesses work with us in identifying the right candidate. But before hand we also vet the students to ensure they have the appropriate skills.”

“The employers don’t need to hire and then fire the students after the assignment. When the course is done, the students leave,” she said.

Churchill and McMurchy of Humber College, however said that business owners looking to hire an intern or student need to consider the following:

Look for the appropriate programs – Check out college, universities and trade school to determine which institution trains the type of talent you are looking for.

Check out the quality of training the schools provide – Check out the reputation of the schools and its graduates.

Be clear on what you are looking for – When posting job openings, McMucrchy said employers should be clear about the skills they are looking, the type of duties and performance expected of students and what type of work the student will be involved in.

“Keep in mind, students are looking for assignments that will challenge them and experiences they can put in their resume as well as training and mentorship,” said McMucrchy. That said, he also cautioned that reputable schools also inspect workplaces to “make sure IT students are not just being made to file paper.”

Make sure you comply with regulation – Determine what labour and education regulations in your jurisdiction requires. Make sure that you are in compliance

Provide some compensation – Employers offering internship are not required to provide compensation for students, but McMurchy said this or some other form of incentive would attract more applicants.

“Students with likely pick an employer that offers great experience opportunity over one that offers a salary. But when there are two employers of equal quality are involved and one is offering a stipend or salary, guess which one the student will apply with?” Mcmurchy asked.

Nestor ArellanoNestor Arellano is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter, read his blog, and join the IT Business Facebook Page.

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