For many students, obtaining employment is an excessively monotonous and frustrating process. First, lower your expectations from a well-paying, resume-boosting job to any minimum wage job willing to schedule around your classes that does not require scrubbing toilets. Next, spend several hours typing a resumé to showcase your strong work and school history, only to rewrite all the information by hand on a fresh application at each location. Most employers get hundreds of applications during their main hiring seasons in July and November, so if you are just now wandering the streets of Pullman looking for a job, for most businesses you are already too late — your application and resumé are destined to quickly vanish into a filing cabinet.
Without any source of income, students may inappropriately resort to spending their student loans on leisure expenses (i.e. alcohol and swag) — a dangerous pattern that threatens to reinforce arguments in favor of slashing financial aid. So in order to compensate for increasing tuition costs and the record-size freshmen class, WSU administration must make employment opportunities more available to enrolled students. This will also serve to reduce the stronghold local non-university employers have over students and allow more students to graduate with competitive work histories that will support their transition to the workforce. In addition, creating these positions could benefit the university by relieving overworked faculty members of their excessive responsibilities.
While speaking with several off-campus employers this week, I learned that many have rather arbitrary preferences in their hiring decisions. Getting noticed by potential employers is quite a difficult feat.
“There’s nothing ever that really jumps out. It’s just a mixture of several different components,” said Hannah Finkas-Ganders, South Fork Public House front of house manager.
The two primary qualities discussed at each business I visited were availability and work experience. Non-students get some preference because they tend to have more flexible schedules and want more hours, according to Main St. Subway manager Sara Price. Students can lose out on an opportunity just because requisite classes are only scheduled at conflicting times.
Starbucks rarely even does their own hiring, instead transferring pre-trained employees from other locations. Multiple local businesses expressed an inclination toward hiring freshmen because they will be able to remain with the company for a longer period of time. Managers like to do as little training as possible. This bothers me for a variety of reasons. Freshmen have less work and school experience than upperclassmen. That first year of school is also a huge transition period, and freshmen may be less able to succeed in both school and at a job. Furthermore, working for one company for the entire duration of college enrollment may not be beneficial for students who seek diverse skill sets. Essentially, local businesses have established a hiring system where students must commit long term to a low-paying job with no potential for advancement.
From the sheer volume of applicants to the excessively specific preconceptions managers seemed to have about their ideal candidate, too many overqualified students in need of employment are being overlooked on a daily basis. WSU absolutely needs to create more student-centric jobs to compensate for these failing employment conditions.
Though the school already has an online system in place for students to connect with employers, called the JobX portal, the site never lists more than five or 10 jobs at a time and listings are often several months old. More on-campus employers like the Bookie, the Rec, the CUB and dining centers should be using this resource to post jobs and collect electronic applications and resumes. Business managers should also be more flexible in their hiring to allow students the opportunity to learn new and useful skills, especially if actual promotions are not feasible.
There are many potential workplaces WSU could improve undergraduate access to. For several years now, nearly all campus faculty members have been required to do more work for the same pay. Graduate students are being hired at a much cheaper cost to take on many of the responsibilities WSU can no longer afford to pay professors for. It only seems logical that undergraduate students should be invited to take some of these excessive responsibilities of graduate students or professors for some compensation, especially as WSU continues to eliminate administrative positions to save money. While doing graduate level grunt work for very little money may not sound ideal, the experience would look much better on a resumé than cashier or food assembler. Like it or not, Pullman is a college town. Local businesses must consider the needs of students as well as their business in making decisions.
Even on a national level, I believe wholeheartedly that a society is failing if they have competent workers who cannot exchange their time, effort, goods and services for money. Unfortunately, money makes the world go round and excluding individuals from the process of generating income is a powerful form of unfair bias and prejudice. By providing students with jobs on campus and within our institution, we can set an example the general populous aspire to.