Back to database    Feb 14, 2017

Innovation series gathers stories of some of the most innovative social businesses around the world that work with the dual aim of profit and impact. Businesses committed to doing good stand out from the crowd because most customers feel good about supporting socially proactive companies. They also achieve a boost in productivity since employees who know their work tangibly affects the lives of others are more likely to go above and beyond. It is hoped that the series will impart useful knowledge for greater institutional support for activities with social innovation impact.  Read about SEV’s new investor-led initiative – a social venture builder.

Social business: StudentGems

by Joanne Willemin & Yusuf Jaffar

StudentGems is a UK based company aiming to provide a matchmaking service for professionals and students. Launched in 2007, the online portal enables businesses to hire skilled students and have them work on various short-term projects such as web design, translation, photography, and administration.

For students, it is an opportunity to make a foray into the professional world and gain experience that can increase their employability after graduation. In contrast to other sites that advertise part-time jobs and internships for students, not only does StudentGems help with job sourcing but it also ensures skill development.

Companies also benefit from the website as they are given access to a network of hardworking and skilled students who offer near-professional delivery. For small businesses on a tight budget, this is a chance to develop or implement new projects at lower costs. is free for students seeking project work, while companies pay one-off fees to post an ad.

Innovation to emulate

Once in college or university, most students try to find means to start earning money as the struggle with daily expenses becomes real. According to independent research conducted in the UK, more than three quarters of university students work while studying, and almost all of them admit that this impacts their studies adversely. This is because the majority of jobs done by the students are not related to their fields of study and thus add no value to their future professional lives.

Furthermore, when looking for their first jobs, students realise that there exists a gap between their classroom knowledge and employer expectations. Therefore, many decide to delay their entry onto the labour market and endeavour instead to develop practical skills by accumulating internship experiences. StudentGems enables students to apply what they learn directly in various business contexts, helping them prepare for the professional world.

On the other side, knowing that small businesses often lack resources (personnel and/or funds) to execute projects, StudentGems saw an opportunity in having students looking for extra income be tied up with companies seeking professional assistance. For these companies, it is advantageous because they are not expected to train students; instead, they simply define their needs and are matched with best candidates to fulfil tasks at hand. Supported by affordable execution, such enterprises are more likely to take risk and engage in new projects, resulting in a clear benefit to the economy.

Impact to date

The services offered by StudentGems respond to real needs from both students and companies, as the former develop a better fit for the market by graduation time and the latter become more dynamic through new business possibilities.

Today, StudentGems counts more than 3,000 businesses that offer jobs to a network of about 13,000 talented students. Overall, companies have recorded a 96% satisfaction rate with their experience of working with the students. The website is open to students from any background, with the number of professional services proposed by students currently standing at about 3,000.

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