What are student-focused companies made of?

TEXT | Jenna Puska
Permalink http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi-fe20231219155909

During the autumn we at VAMK have focused on building our new Key Partnership model, to which we have been looking for companies in our region. These companies should share the same values and interests in not only improving their operations with innovation with us, but also in helping the next generation on employees, our students. Now, if we want to help students and improve their situation, it is important to know what students want and how they would like to be helped.

One of the easiest and nearly obvious ways to help would be by offering employment to the students. It is no surprise to anyone that to thrive in life and having the means for living come on top for us all. This is even more important for students when entering working life after cramming their brains for 3-5years with knowledge and perhaps even accumulating a student loan of some size. However, when it comes to student employment, it seems a cruel Catch 22 is in place, where one can’t get a job without any experience and to get experience, one needs to have a job to begin with. This needs to be recognized in the hiring process as well, as working part time influences the students’ ability to study and therefore timely graduation and final grades.

Short term work experience

Here is where internships, summer jobs and even mentoring programs come in. Hare at VAMK we are in a lucky situation to have such a vibrant collective of energy focused companies around us with several mentoring programs taking place in most companies, some independently and some in collaboration with us, where our teachers help with company’s mentoring program and can even customize the study plan for students to support the roles she/he might strive to grow into once completed with their degree. Still, only few companies are involved in the mentoring programs, and only a lucky few gain a mentorship compared to numerous applicants.

Another way we try to help students in gaining real work life experience while they are students, are the student assignments. We at VAMK are good at collaborating with companies and finding those development projects or smaller assignments to which our students could bring a fresh perspective on or even create material for. However, we could always be better, and more assignments could be improved with student work and simultaneously give students that experience while at the same time getting a foot in the door without delaying their studies.

Sharing knowledge

Students would also be eager for information of the actual working life. Knowing what companies expect from their employees, the working etiquette, company culture and unwritten rules like office politics, can sometimes come as a surprise especially for the new but for experienced employees as well. This would be important as it directly influences the working life skills of the students and their success in their project/work/trainee position/summer job. This is why visiting lecturers and company introductions are so incredibly important. This would be best also combined with information on what companies are looking for in their new hires and what kind of soft and hard skills they are expecting from their future employees.

Value for the company

Now as one can expect many companies might ponder “What’s in it for me, shouldn’t students simply be happy to get employment with us?”. Most companies are not interested in focusing on students simply for the altruistic reasons of helping them, and in result driven organizations, it might be difficult to put monetary value on the goodwill. Next, I will discuss why this would be important from the company perspective.

Brand value – becoming a student-focused company

By becoming a student focused company, companies can reach a better caliber of students, or simply students who are a better fit. As mentioned before the skills students have at the beginning of their career might not be there yet. However, intangible skills like motivation, coachability, flexibility, willingness to learn and simply culture fit are very important skills and might be difficult to learn at school. Students are also a collective group where experiences are reshared not only in social media but also verbally and the old rule that positive experience is told to few but negative to ten has grown exponentially. Therefore, that one company at the student fair that was only interested in engineering students will be remembered and the story of disinterest shared.

Related to the brand image, this becomes even more important when talking about hiring experienced professionals. One day the inexperienced students will become professionals and start looking to change jobs for the best firm for them. When deciding between two nearly equal positions, the one which made stronger positive impact on them will clearly remain as a favorite in their minds.


Students are also an important resource for the company to gather information on changing preferences of the workforce. Much research has been done on how new generations prefer to be led by example, instead of being managed, which I believe even older generations would benefit from. However, the other values of the new generations surprise in their fairness. When researched by Statistics Finland (Tilastokeskus työvoimatutkimus (2019)), the highest factor students aren’t willing to compromise over was equality. This can take different forms and not only cover equal pay between genders, but also discrimination, unequal treatment in getting information and help, getting promotions, and getting treated respectfully. Unlike previous generations where feminism has increased and gender gap has grown smaller (although still existing), also equal treatment based on one’s ethnicity, age, religion, and mother language etc. are valued by students.


The second highest value among students was meaningfulness of the job. For our generation gaining employment and providing for one’s family and for the future was the meaning and motivation to do one’s job well. Nowadays students do also want to see companies to care for the larger sociological ecosystem and show greener values and actions towards more sustainable future. Therefore, it would be smart for companies to invest in greener values, if not only for the greater good for us all, but also for their own long-term benefits.

The most important resolution

I believe everyone would benefit from a better workplace equality and finding more meaningfulness, which would greatly lead to better work-life satisfaction and hopefully new generations can teach us to place them higher in our value frame as well. Therefore, I would like to challenge companies to be more student-focused and see the short-term benefits, but also to experience the snowball effect of goodwill that even a little work towards helping students can have. We would also be happy to help companies to think further and see if we can together find even new ways to help students in the future. Perhaps focusing on students should be one of the most important New Year’s resolutions a company can make for the year 2024.