The findings of a French study are alarming. 46% of students have skipped a meal. Half of those surveyed (49%) have reduced their portion size or the amount of food. 39% had to forgo heating last winter. Finally, one-third of students struggle to pay their housing-related expenses on time. Published in early September, the study conducted by the food aid association Cop1 and the Ifop polling institute diagnoses the explosion of student financial hardship in the face of inflation. Housing, energy consumption, food, health: all areas of expenditure are affected.
While some universities are taking action in the shape of university hardship funds, how can businesses assist young people and combat student financial hardship?
While apprenticeship and alternate contracts help in the fight against student financial hardship (by covering the entirety of tuition fees), here are our recommendations to further assist young recruits. After consulting with our interns and apprentices, please find below our suggestions, within the context of inflation.
(We do, of course, keep in mind that every company has different resources and capabilities, so it is recommended to implement measures tailored to their possibilities and priorities.)
- Regularly update pay scales for interns and apprentices, just as you do for your employees, to account for the rising cost of living.
- Offer meal vouchers to interns and apprentices.
- Provide free meals once a week/month. In addition to addressing financial hardship, this measure fosters social interactions for young recruits, as nearly one out of two students reports feeling lonely often or sometimes (45%).
- Install hygiene product dispensers in women's restrooms to combat menstrual poverty. A quarter of female students indicate that they sometimes lack hygiene products due to financial constraints (23% for all students and 32% for financially disadvantaged female students).
- Offer flexible employment opportunities: : Companies can provide part-time jobs or flexible hours to enable students to balance multiple jobs if desired.
- Support young talent in their offboarding : If the intern/apprentice leaves the company at the end of their experience, assist them in finding new opportunities.
- Cover 100% of transportation passes for interns.. (Regarding apprentices, the remaining 50% is covered by the school)
- Cover 100% of the health insurance for apprentices. 36% of students have already foregone medical assistance (including psychological) (Interns are not subject to mandatory company health insurance or any potential supplementary coverage, as they are not employees).
- Offer mental health services to interns and apprentices. You can also appoint mental health ambassadors within the company at various hierarchical levels to whom employees can turn if needed.
- Assist young people in their housing search and, under certain conditions, offer them a rental guarantee. You can also provide the intern or apprentice with an employment certificate to validate their income when dealing with landlords. More than half of students (55%) have encountered difficulties securing housing. Among financially disadvantaged students, 46% report significant challenges during their housing search—much higher than the overall student population. It's worth noting that apprentices benefit from housing assistance in many countries, such as Sweden, due to their employee status.
Last but not least: Inform interns and apprentices about available assistance programs such as OpenUp. 47% of students are not adequately informed about housing assistance, 49% about financial aid, and 51% about psychological support.