The majority of leading businesses today view an academic degree as a mandatory requirement. A certification that is supposed to symbolise knowledge and superiority over those that don’t have one. However, while the number of jobs for university leavers is on the rise – 12% to be exact – there are still plenty of vacancies that remain unfilled due to employers not being able to find the right person.
Personally, I feel that there’s a resistance from some companies to invest time in those who may not have the required degree, but could potentially be as talented as someone who does. So why are they continually overlooked and not offered the same opportunities?
The simple answer is that society has become too focussed on qualifications.
I got my first job when I was just 16 and started an YTS apprenticeship at a family-fun firm in Lancashire, which wasn’t glamorous and I was on a measly wage. What it did do, though, was teach me some important business values. I was given a chance to learn and it helped me get to where I am today.
Young people should be trying to get as much life experience as possible by doing things such as volunteering for charity, working on a market or travelling, but not necessarily abroad because the UK is actually an amazing place to explore. These experiences will help create a CV which resembles a life story and reflects the person as an individual.
It’s staggering to see the amount of graduates who are lacking basic communications skills. The UK business community, along with the education system, has become too focussed on academic achievements and less concerned about creating rounded individuals that have the ability to make a difference. It’s no good having all the knowledge in the world if you don’t know how to apply it. We need to be looking at candidates who are enthusiastic, motivated and most importantly, interested in the job.
These individuals can be created through apprenticeships or graduate schemes, but the pathway to these opportunities is often blocked. Businesses are turning away candidates for lack of experience, which is absurd. How can they possess experience if nobody is willing to offer them that first step onto the career ladder?
Don’t get me wrong, degrees are worthy achievements. But as a society, we need to move away from the habit of choosing candidates based on their academic qualifications. We need to get back to a culture where businesses offer opportunities to young people and allow them to get into work. I know I’d rather take on someone who has life experience than someone who has just got a degree.
Matthew Riley is a successful, serial entrepreneur and the CEO of leading business communications provider Daisy Group plc. Having founded the company in 2001, he has turned the venture he started in his garage into a £400m business with 60,000 customers.