Students call shots in boom market

May 12, 2000

Call centres are proving popular in the student job market, thanks to flexible hours and good pay, according to university careers officers.

The industry has proved a boon not only for students but also for their institutions, some of which have started to run linked training programmes.

Liverpool John Moores University, which already has students taking calls for Littlewoods, Barclays Bank, Abbey National and Norwich Union, is even planning to provide a call centre in university buildings.

In August, it will hire out its information technology training suite to the shopping channel QVC during evenings and weekends for a call centre that will provide jobs for 70 students.

Martin Stacey, manager at the Merseyside call centre development unit, said that while some call centres had a bad reputation for working conditions, both the hours and pay were better than in traditional student jobs.

"If you asked parents what work they would prefer their children to be doing while at university, would they say working at Cream nightclub until 4am or working for Barclays Bank?" he asked.

The development unit helps to match students interested in the business with a company that suits their hours and that provides training.

It also recruits students as drivers and administrators and has recently set up a training programme for call centre staff from outside the university. Some are now signing up for degree courses.

Plans are also afoot at LJMU to offer a three-year call centre management degree programme with an international IT company.

Nigel Thomas, director of Cardiff University Careers Service, said that the number of Cardiff students working in call centres is also increasing, partly due to an initiative run by the South Wales Training and Enterprise Council to attract call centres to the area.

Company call centres based in southeast Wales include British Gas, British Rail inquiries and Barclays, with some offering shifts from 5.00pm to 7.30pm, which are almost entirely staffed by students.

Sean Ireton, job shop coordinator at the University of Kent, said that while call centre work for students was still not as common as more traditional jobs for Kent students, there was no doubt that it was a growing area. While it could be stressful as a long-term career, he said it worked well for students working temporary, short shifts.

Last week, Nicol Stephen, deputy minister for enterprise and lifelong learning at the Scottish Executive, launched a Pounds 135,000 call centre training suite at Reid Kerr College in Paisley.

About 180 students a year are expected to enrol on the 12-week course, which will involve customer service skills and computer training.

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