The Freelance Informer - startup or degree?

ended 19. October 2021

New research has found that almost half of former university students would advise against pursuing a degree. Instead, for those with a great idea, they suggest launching a business instead or, at the very least, getting out into the workplace and gaining practical experience (rather than bumming around getting hammered in the union bar, caning it and studying Plato's forms for three years). What are your thoughts? Get a degree first, go straight into a start-up, or get a degree then try your hand at a start-up so at least you have a degree to fall back on if it goes belly up?

9 responses from the Newspage community

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"Developing a strong work ethic from a young age is really important and we embrace apprenticeships within our business. We've launched many young employees into the world of work, helping them to learn on the job and earn on the job all without accruing mind-boggling levels of debt. "The importance of teaching soft skills such as teamwork, time management and communication early on are important and our apprentices nail it and go onto a successful and fulfilling career. We have had University interns who are late, can’t answer the phone or even think independently as they are used to being directed or carried by others, having the University culture engrained within them. "Having worked in industry myself from leaving school, I set up my own business, which has gone from strength to strength. The skills I need to run my business and experiences are those learnt from others in the “real world” of the businesses that I have worked in and not theories learnt from studying. While I embrace entrepreneurism, no amount of theory can prepare you for negotiating, pitching, communicating and collaborating with others in the business world, but apprenticeships and real life experiences can."
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"There's huge value in a good quality university degree. That said, there's lots of value in real-world experience and apprenticeships should not be seen as a second class option. I know many people who have degrees in meaningless subjects working in office roles who are earning less than half of what a good quality brickie, plumber or sparkie is earning. My own route of gaining some decent A-levels, a few years in the military then attending Uni has served me well. After three years of studying Plato's forms, intertwined with an unhealthy dose of existential crisis some insight into Wittgenstein's private language argument, I do feel a more rounded person. However, that could be just because I'm overweight. Nevertheless, an appreciation of Amor Fati is positive for every soul."
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"As a business leader, my recommendation is to get stuck into a start-up or venture into a business first. When you have gained enough deep experience, only then supplement it with formal educational programs alongside the business or profession you are involved in. In that way, the entire learning process becomes effortless and highly accelerated. "I am a performance and workplace scientist with a focus on accelerated learning at the speed of business. Personally, I have two doctorates in business, 2 MBAs and over 100 international educational credentials, which include several degrees and certifications. Most of these credentials I have gained while working on relevant projects. In that process, have seen the best and worst sides of education and have done a fair amount of research on career choices. "I observed that most academic and university programs are targeted at imparting education and knowledge. Very few of them are focused on actual workplace or business skills. Successful careers and innovative businesses now demand strategies, methods, skills, and well-rounded personalities. "However, such development only comes when people get immersed in something and experience business first-hand. In fact, most of the academic content will make immediate sense and learning will be highly accelerated when the content about a topic is learned after gaining practical experience in same. This might appear counter-intuitive, but is the key strategy to speed up learning.
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"I never got a degree and never wanted to get one. Experience outweighs qualifications all day long. Recruiting now, I'd rather bring someone with three years' experience vs a graduate that has 3 years of theoretical teaching behind them. You only learn how to do the job, and do the job well, by actually doing it. "If a student is thinking of launching a business, why have a fall back option, make a success of it and learn in the real world. You can always fall back on the experience you have gained to secure employment elsewhere, if needed." Depending on your chosen career, sometimes a degree is the only way to get to where you want to be, racking up the debt in pursuit of a limited number of vacancies at the end of it. 2/3 of think3 owners never went to University and instead focused on gaining experience in the real world which has paid off for us.
"I have a BA(Hons) in graphic design but I don't think I needed to do a degree. After working as a creative for 15 plus years in top advertising agencies, no one ever even asked me if I have one let alone what grade I got. I learned more on various work experience placements than I ever did at Uni, and although it was fun, racking up debt that hung over me for years wasn't worth it. I could definitely have built a portfolio mixing college with training in the workplace. Now I am self-employed, I wish I'd jumped in with my own business when I was in my 20ss or even younger. Entrepreneurship skills are far more valuable than a piece of paper from a University in this massively oversaturated and over-qualified market."
"Personally, as a business owner, I attended University to study management, but later left after one year to pursue a management training program with a national company, which gave me on the job experience, while learning at the same time. I worked my way up to Area Manager, an experience which gave me knowledge to start my own business. Now, as an employer of some very good apprentices, who have worked hard to progress within my company, I think the UK is in a great position to really help both scenarios, either University or on-the-job training. University isn’t for everyone, and we’re lucky to tap into the knowledge of very good colleges and academies to help train and prepare our young people for a valued and fulfilling career. We think it’s essential to offer all options depending on the traits and learning ability of the individual."
"The vast majority of young people can achieve what they want in their careers without the need for a degree. The introduction of higher level apprenticeships for most professions now means you can earn and learn and achieve the same qualifications with much more practical experience. Both the partners at Fair Result did exactly that – with one of us reaching partnership with KPMG before the age of 30 and having left School at 16 to pursue an apprenticeship. "Also, with the spiralling cost of housing – just think - working from 16 – 25 with the disposable income in your pocket compared with £70k and more of debt means you could be on the housing ladder at 21 with a tidy deposit and, in our reckoning, more than £150k better off by the time you are 25 — after tax. Just think of that and all the practical experience you have on your CV. "And also remember a first degree is often not considered enough these days with many staying for another year to do a Masters, which is yet more expense and debt and no real life work experience."
Once you’ve attained your degree, the next thing you need to do when you land your first role is to learn how to do the job you’ve applied for. There are so many permutations on the names of vocational degrees, and to be honest, unless you are going to be a doctor or an architect, they often teach out-of-date industry standards that are often abstracted from the actual job you will go on to do. There is a time and a place for completing your education, and if this includes a degree, then in your younger years is the best time to do this. I would always advise you go as pure in subject matter as you want to - you are a long-time a grown up and vocations can come later. If you don’t have the chance or the money to do a degree, it really isn’t the end of the world. With the right drive and determination, the playing field levels out in the end.
I don't believe there is any need in going to University if you know that you want to start up your own business. There are lots of places where you can obtain the relevant support, whether that be the formal groups like the IOD, Chambers of Commerce or the banks - NatWest has some really good tools for businesses on their Business Builder site. However if you do not know what you want to set up in you can always check out franchising where there should be a business that will suit you - not only that it's been tried and tested elsewhere first and covers a range of set up costs. The only issue with some is that they may want experience but if they do at least you know what to do first - and in the long term it will be relevant to what you want to do, rather than a degree that might be a waste of time and money.