With the Covid-19 pandemic accelerating the digitalisation of business and service, remote working is now established as both workable and desirable. It provides efficiency savings and has opened up a far wider pool of talent.
Some of the newest and most innovative companies which are now thriving because of this are those in the 'student gigs' sector. These companies bring students and graduates, with skills and time on their hands, together with companies and individuals who require support on specific projects or on-demand people skills on an hourly or daily basis.
Many students across the UK are now under lockdown restrictions and traditional part-time jobs in hospitality and retail have become an unlikely option. Students have therefore been registering their skills and availability with a variety of 'student gig' companies proving a range of flexible work opportunities.
Kevin Barrow, partner in Osborne Clarke's Workforce Solutions team, comments: "The pandemic has accelerated many flexible workforce trends. We all know young people whose dreams are on hold at the moment and so it's a particularly good news story that specialist gig platforms have been set up to help students make some money and get some work experience. There is a lot of regulation to handle and we and others have talked to the government over the last few years about how to reduce that burden. In the meantime we are helping these companies find a way".
Examples of businesses that Osborne Clarke has advised in this area include:
- Unibeez: A borderless digital marketplace that connects the UK’s students & graduates with innovative employers to undertake remote, paid work. Jobs are posted by hirers from 10 hours per week requesting specific skills. AI matches the skills to the profiles of students and graduates who have joined Unibeez for free. Once the connection is made, the hirer deals directly with the worker. Once completed and verified by the hirer the worker is paid directly by Unibeez (the contracted intermediary).
- MyTutor: Offers one-to-one tuition provided by university students to boost teens’ grades and confidence. Tutors are all subject experts, handpicked from UK universities - just one in eight who apply make it on to the platform. There are opportunities for students to tutor in over 30 subjects at GCSE and A Level, and they help pupils improve, on average, by a whole grade in 12 lessons. Tutors also provide coaching in exam technique, while also offering pupils much-needed reassurance and a boost in confidence during these challenging times.
- MindSumo, a division of MBO Partners®: Provides a unique opportunity for often established companies to seek crowdsource solutions to problems and challenges. A challenge is framed and explained before being launched, often in areas of marketing, innovation and product research. Most challenges are solved within a month and the winners receive cash prizes; businesses can also pursue project fulfilment via MBO Partners, the parent company offering a platform for independent work.
- Rota: Started as an online staffing platform for students and others to get jobs in hospitality, but has evolved to offer all sorts of companies a software-as-a-service solution to manage their whole workforce, including students looking for part time temp work remotely. Rota has scheduling capability, digital time and attendance, check in/out and can directly link to students' mobile phones (roles, rates, shifts near me, highest paid shifts, shifts at my favourite locations or from home).
Bertie Hubbard, co-founder and CEO at MyTutor, commented: "At MyTutor, we help thousands of university students and recent graduates find work that’s flexible, well-paid and rewarding. With our online lesson space and tutor training resources, they can deliver effective tutorials that help boost pupils' grades, confidence and motivation. As online tutors they can pick where and when they work, helping teens stay on top of classroom work and preparing them for exams. This year we've seen a 450% increase in demand for online tuition, and with schools focusing on catching up and some home learning still in place, it’s one of the best ways to find work as a student."
“Open innovation is the key to achieving future business success on a timely and cost-effective scale,” says Gene Zaino, Founder and Executive Chairman, MBO Partners. “MindSumo offers businesses a way to tap into a vibrant network ranging from Millennials and hard-to-reach Gen Z’s to established independent professionals in a simplified and frictionless manner.”
Steve Segal, CEO of Rota, said: "Our Partners who utilise Rota's Total Workforce Technology manage their internal and external staffing all on one comprehensive platform. Many use the technology to build high quality and consistent internal casual pools of students who are able to quickly find, apply for and accept roles on their mobile app around their own busy education schedules. Students can have fun, apply 24/7, have the choice of what roles, when they work and where they wish to work. They are able to earn extra money and gain valuable experience in the workplace using an agile, easy to use app, and student feedback has been very positive given the ease of the technology, transparency of roles, and being able to take flexible work around their education, and social lives."
Setting up these sorts of platforms is not straightforward. This is because many areas of regulation affect how they can charge, what protections need to be built in for students and hirers, what if any tax needs to be paid, how money is remitted to the workers and how personal data needs to be protected. It is important to ensure that the business understands and is compliant with the regulations from the start. But once they have got the model and the compliance right, the platforms have great futures.