The Worklink service, launched by the BCS Young Professionals Group, has been through trials and has now gone live with strong support from Greenwich University in London. The university has installed a server specifically to run the service.
Worklink aims to help undergraduate BCS members to find placements with employers during a sandwich or gap year away from university. Students fill in an online CV which is entered into a database that can be searched by potential employers to find the skills they need free of charge. Once a company has found an individual who is right for the organisation or for a specific project, it can then contact the chosen candidate directly.
Employers can get several benefits from student placements, says James Hickson, vice-chairman of the BCS Young Professionals Group. "Many employers say a student can bring fresh ideas and added enthusiasm into the workplace," he explains. "Students can bring up-to-date knowledge of techniques and theories - and they are easier to finance than a permanent staff member.
"Placement students can undertake specific projects that current team members may not have time to complete, or simply provide an extra pair of hands, freeing senior staff to concentrate on more important projects.
"Placements usually start after the second year - IT students are unique in that they are semi-skilled at this stage, having undertaken major projects as part of their course."
Hickson thinks the fact that the Worklink service comes from the BCS will make its students especially valuable to employers. "The database is populated exclusively by BCS members, which means most of the CVs will be from students with an active interest in IT who recognise the need to be a member of a professional body and have agreed to follow the BCS code of conduct," he says.
"Many student members are active in branches or have set up a BCS group at their university. Many attend BCS events, ensuring their industry knowledge is up-to-date. Companies looking for students with an edge need look no further - and they have no need to run expensive recruitment campaigns or wade through a sea of applicants to find quality candidates."
Employers that offer work placements will also be helping the students by giving them valuable experience of the real world of work, says Liz Bacon, a senior academic at Greenwich University.
"We recognise the importance and value of industrial placements for anyone wanting to pursue an IT career," she says. "Our students benefit greatly from a year in industry and can be found internationally with some of the best employers. They return to the university with some excellent experiences and insights, ready for the challenge of the final year."