Industry Research : Experience versus Education - The Long-Standing and Tricky Debate
Did you know that almost half of the 12 million graduates from 2013 have settled into non-graduate jobs for which they are significantly over-qualified? Or that there are at least 50 graduates competing for every entry-level job?
With salaries dropping, living costs rising and more and more graduates settling for unpaid internships, it seems that our top graduates are spiralling into a deep dark hole of debt and unemployment. The number of young people straddling the line of experience vs education is ever increasing but which holds more weight? Does the university, degree or summer job you choose really matter?
These questions have been addressed by numerous large companies with the introduction of graduate schemes to give first-time jobseekers support after they leave university and to ease them into working life. However, many of these schemes require previous industry experience, 2:1 classifications and are unbelievably competitive.
It’s important to clarify that experience and education are not mutually exclusive. They both contribute to an individual’s development in different ways and nurture complementary skills. It would be extremely presumptuous to say that universities aren’t teaching the skills that are required in the workplace. Core written, analytical and evaluation skills are transferable to any professional role, as is the ability to work to tight deadlines and manage multiple tasks at any one time. However, what about Google analytics, Hootsuite and CRM systems? And let’s add professionalism, project ownership and initiative to the mix. Suddenly, the pit into which our top graduates are falling becomes clear.
So, how do we bridge this gap?
The majority of students and graduates all share one main skill: they are digital natives! The emergence of online platforms have revolutionised the way businesses get noticed. Now, a new engaging language and a hefty level of commitment are required to capture your target audience’s attention. Students not only have a vested interest in the digital world but they are also bursting with energy and are excited by the prospect of the ‘real world’. This makes them extremely employable during their time at university.
Companies like Task Firm are successfully allowing students to channel their exuberance and positive energy into a part-time job that will differentiate their CV, top up their weekly income and hone in on some core skills. Task Firm provides on-demand assistance to SME’s across Sales and Marketing and tasks range from lead generation and researching prospects to managing social media accounts and writing SEO-friendly articles. These tasks manage to strike the perfect balance between maintaining students’ interests while giving them relevant experience, and all in a way that doesn’t require them to de-prioritise their studies.
Nowadays, real hands-on responsibility and project ownership are becoming harder to get without starting at the bottom of the ladder. However, accepting the inter-dependence of education and experience and by allowing intelligent students to become a part of a company while they are still discovering their professional interests may just be the key to unlock a whole new generation of high-flying entrepreneurs.
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Published: Monday, June 2, 2014