When the town of Cornelius wanted a video to promote its Earth Day festival, neighboring Davidson College had experienced film makers up for the job.
When the City University of Mogadishu needed a website revamp, it turned to Davidson—so did a researcher with essays to translate from French to English, and a startup travel company looking for innovators to help develop and market its services.
All sought workers from the college’s Gig-Hub, which has placed about 100 students in more than 140 short-term paying jobs since its inception last year.
Through the Gig-Hub, employers find students with skills in areas such as web development, research, data analytics and videography. Students and employers in the program, which went into full throttle this past spring, say it’s a natural match.
Students earn $13 per hour and develop experience while keeping flexible schedules to work around classes. Employers—often startups with small budgets—get quality work at a reasonable price. And it comes without a long-term commitment.
“We love the program, it’s great having people on the short term,” says Ben Knosby, CEO and founder of Lucid Travel, a software startup that helps universities and sports teams book and manage travel. He said it’s more efficient and economical for his company to hire people for specific projects as they come up.
“Sometimes you find that younger workers need a lot of hand-holding in the beginning,” Knosby says. “Our experience with the Davidson students has been different. Instead of saying, ‘Here, do this,’ you can give them problems that need to be solved.
“I can say, ‘What would you do if you were me? What work needs to be done?’ The Gig-Hub really pre-screens people. They’re very motivated and it’s easier for them to handle tasks that require initiative.”
Courtney Byler ’19 says working at the Gig-Hub and for Lucid Travel helped her transition into her current full-time position as a data engineer for a software company in Charlotte.
“I hadn’t really thought about technology companies before, but working at the Gig-Hub exposed me to more job and business opportunities,” Byler says. “What I liked about working with (Lucid) was having a hand in so many different pieces of the business. Each day I was doing something different, and that helped position me for the job I have now.”
Victor-Alan Weeks and Lawrence King, both from the class of 2019, are film makers and entrepreneurs who worked on several projects at the Gig-Hub, including the Cornelius film and another celebrating the 25th anniversary of a local company.
“It was a perfect fit,” King says. “We got to work with good clients, and it helped us earn real money that we could put into our other projects. It also gave us something tangible to show people that we know what we’re doing.”
“Gig-Hub was an incredible opportunity that combined Davidson’s professional relationships with student entrepreneurial initiative,” Weeks says. “Having the chance to hone my creative and administrative capabilities in real transactions strengthened my confidence in growing my business in the real world.”
Cornelius Communications Manager Clayton Murtle says he was impressed by the short film that Weeks and King produced to highlight the town’s environmentally friendly efforts and assets.
“They were very responsive and very professional throughout the process,” Murtle says. “They really brought my vision to life in a way I didn’t expect. I know a lot of people have been matched up with really talented students in the program. It’s a great resource for the community.”
The idea of jobs as gigs has been a mixed and controversial topic in the United States. Many workers seeking stability, steady paychecks and employment benefits end up frustrated by the model of moving from one temporary job to the next with little security.
But those conditions can be ideal for younger workers who seek flexibility and a variety of experiences in their early careers. It can be an especially apt match for college students who can’t work full-time and may spend summers and breaks far from campus.
The Gig-Hub operates out of the Jay Hurt Hub for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Hurt Hub General Manager Julie Goff ’05, who came up with the idea, says it makes sense for the many people working in a gig economy.
“The world is moving away from 9-5 jobs with a 40-year commitment to the same company,” she says. “Now, especially in the tech industry, jobs have become more project-based.
“We know Davidson students don’t have a ton of time for professional experience on top of full course loads. But they are interested in getting professional opportunities throughout the academic year,” Goff says. “We also hear from startups and companies looking for real-time project help that want to partner specifically with Davidson students.”
With startup funding from Steven Shores ’94, Gig-Hub has been a popular resource for other Davidson alumni involved in various ventures around the world.
Adrienne Lee ’21 recently translated an essay, “Buddhism in the West,” from French to English, for a client, Jared Baxter ’93. The daughter of a South Korean diplomat, Lee is proficient in French thanks to attending a bilingual high school in Paris.
“It’s really cool how students can get involved and get experience,” Lee says. “If you’re good at it and can get paid, it’s a really good opportunity for self-improvement and getting your name out there.”
Lee, an artist, studio art major and neuroscience minor, says she learned a lot from translating the essay for a Vincent Van Gogh presentation Baxter made to scholars at a European conference.
“It helped me better understand an art course I was taking,” Lee says. “I actually used something I learned from it on my final exam—I guess to brag a little bit.”
Baxter says he was pleased with the results.
“My experience was great, I really needed these papers translated and my French isn’t very good so it worked out really well,” he says. “The translation was very fluid, and natural.”
Sean Brooks ’04, has enlisted the Gig-Hub for his projects promoting and supporting entrepreneurship in East Africa. His company, Tethered Up, works with innovators in countries like Somalia, Sudan and others recovering from issues such as war and natural disasters.
City University was founded by Somali professors who studied and taught in the United States, Canada and other countries. It’s one of the few non-profit colleges in Somalia and bases its curriculum in the American liberal arts tradition, Brooks says.
“When City asked for help in finalizing and launching a new website, I thought about the Gig-Hub,” Brooks says. “I knew that I would be able to trust Davidson students in caring about the project and contributing whatever they can to its success.”