Temping work is a mouse click away

Students are gaining useful cash and experience via a revolutionary new website.
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The Independent Online

It's the start of a new year, so millions of students will be queuing up at recruitment consultancies, swallowing their pride and taking the pain as they look forward to the frustrations of temping. And along with the tedium there is often the irritation of knowing that a recruitment consultant is taking nearly half your earnings in commission.

At long last, there is an answer. More adventurous students are turning to www.studentgems.com, the potentially revolutionary recruitment website for students, set up last year, that cuts out the middle men, matching student skills with one-off jobs.

The site is free to use for customers and students and is open to anyone studying or training. Students post their profiles online and list their skills, from 1,400 options. The site then hooks them up with customers. Studentgems.com does not independently check qualifications and skills, but a rating system guides customers. Students can upload art and music portfolios and scan in qualifications, and students are only paid on delivery.

Not only does the site allow students to take home all their earnings, says co-founder Sue Harrison, they also have a chance to develop skills and passions.

"Students have a lot of talent that's not being used," says Harrison. "Most traditional student jobs are boring. This gives them a chance to do something they're actually interested in and good at." That may be the subject they are studying, but not necessarily. If you thought your love of the violin or photography would never pay the rent, think again.

Harrison set up the company after trying to find a photography student for work. "Actually finding a student was quite hard," she says. "We thought, if only there was some kind of central database."

And Harrison saw, first hand, how eager students were for the work. "My daughter's really worried about her debt," says Harrison. "Before she went off to university she did some music teaching, and was quite good at it. Now she's working in a bar and getting less than £5 an hour. It seems to be a bit wrong."

Millions of students are getting an equally raw deal each year. More than three million British students work while they study to help keep borrowing under control. And with average graduate debt expected to hit £15,000 by the time this year's freshers leave, that number is set to rise.

Take up on the site has been rapid, with more than 600 students already registered, but there is obviously still a long way to go. Already, though, studentgems.com has had some remarkable success stories.

Sebastian Lomas only left school last summer, and has yet to decide where he will study architecture, but thanks to studentgems.com he already has an urban design plan up for budget approval with Kettering Borough Council.

Lomas signed up to the site three months ago, originally looking to find work on the back of a photography summer school he took last year at the Slade. His first job was as a wedding photographer.

The site, he says, is easy to use. "Within four minutes of typing in the web address I was a registered user and applying for jobs," he says. "Within 20 minutes of sending my first application I had the job. And the next day I had people sending me messages asking to do jobs. It was very quick."

Lomas was surprised to find that although he had no architecture experience, his passion for the subject was enough to whet the appetite of Kettering councillor Paul Corazzo. Lomas was commissioned by Kettering Borough Council to redesign a street in the city. The challenge was to provide more room for cars, without losing too much of the street's public gardens.

Corazzo paid Lomas £90 for his work. A bargain for the council, which might otherwise have expected to pay an agency a few thousand. "It's certainly been real value for money," says Corazzo. "The student's benefited because he's had practice working for a client. I've benefited because my constituents can see something's being done. And the council's benefited because the money they've paid has been relatively minor. It's been 100 per cent positive."