Is earning and learning good or bad for students?

December 4, 1998

Good for you - "experience working with others, preparing for a career"

The reality is that most students are already working their way through university. With the contraction of the student grant and the introduction of tuition fees, students face massive costs. Earning while learning is a way of paying for them.

There are lots of ways of earning while learning: some are part of the degree course, such as sandwich placements. But are there advantages to be gained from term-time work that is not part of the curriculum and is not academically recognised?

I would argue that there can be - if the experience is approached properly. Students need to think what elements in their part-time jobs could fit into their career plans. Are they getting experience in working with others, meeting customers, or becoming familiar with an industry? Whatever they do at work, however ordinary, they must wring the most out of it. They need to be able to use their experience to impress the people who will read their CVs and interview them in the future.

The benefits that can be derived from work, however lowly, include improvements in study (through greater self-confidence, motivation and time management); more understanding about career choices and management (students may learn what they do not want to do); development of skills such as communication, problem-solving and IT; and enhanced employability. Last but not least, students who work their way through will find themselves in a healthier financial state.

Things the student should do:

* Reflect on and record what has been learnt at work

* Make the most of the experience: do the job as well as possible, take on responsibility, earn promotion

* Update the CV and tailor it for the next job application to show development and experience Things to be avoided:

* Working more than 15 hours a week

* Cutting down on studies

* Going without rest or sleep

* Missing out on social activities

* Undercutting regular workers by accepting lower wages

* Giving up the course for the lure of "money now". In the long run, graduates earn more than non-graduates.

Karen Powell-Williams, the National Centre for Work Experience.

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Reader's comments (1)

I think earning and learning can be done at the same time. One can take help of various campus services that are available in the market.

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