CEO Today Magazine March 2018 Edition

Offering a different perspective, Joseph Valente explains: “I have spoken to a number of young people who believe that university isn’t for them: they feel trapped in a classroom, trying desperately to absorb concepts that they know they’ll never need for running a business. I also speak to business owners who wished they would have finished their degrees. I am hesitant to recommend that anyone quit something they’ve committed to (after all, I was expelled from school, which negatively affected my forward progress). However, trajectories change. Goals and visions become clearer. And sometimes, we realise that the path we’re on isn’t leading to the desired destination. If someone is in school and feeling compelled to drop out and jump straight into the business world, I would suggest asking the following questions: A) Do you know what area of business you’d like to go into? B) Have you strategised your plan for establishing and running that business? C) Can you secure financial backing? D) Is your heart pulling you in one direction, day after day? I would never demand that anyone spend money on university who doesn’t need a degree to pursue their intended career. To the contrary, there are people who perform well in a structured setting, and therefore, a business degree from a four-year university is probably the best path for them. As for the rest of the people, those who know what they want to do or sell, those who have given their potential business a lot of thought and have a definitive plan of action, those who have a financial strategy for affording to start a new business, those who are motivated to keep commitments and reach or exceed goals... do not necessarily need that college degree to move forward. In fact, they will probably make more headway by skipping those four years of structured learning—which can feel more like prison to them. Does that mean learning is unnecessary? Absolutely not. Business practices must be learnt through university, apprenticeship or independent study. There’s a lot of competition out there; no one can expect to go it alone, or without the training to survive and thrive.” JOSEPH VALENTE James Reed, Chairman and CEO of Reed weighs in, elaborating on the alternate forms of education on offer: “My father, Sir Alec Reed, founded REED in 1960. He left school at 16, studied accountancy at night school and started the company with just £75 in his hometown of Hounslow. He didn’t have a degree to help him run a company, but he did have a hunger, from a young age, to be self-employed. Interestingly, he has always placed a high value on a good education and he certainly encouraged his own children to aim high academically. But Alec Reed has always stressed the importance of vocational learning that will improve an individual’s career prospects, part of the reason I suspect that I ended up studying business and economics. Of course, not everyone has the resources, mind set or perhaps the desire to create and manage a start- up business from scratch. But entrepreneurship is not the only alternative to higher education. The UK jobs market is seeing more and more companies investing in apprenticeships and trainee positions, as businesses are seeing the real value in hiring and nurturing potential talent through providing practical and relevant experience. There is a particular demand for entry level people in areas that are experiencing skills shortages, such as science and technology. In the time it would take someone to complete a degree and gain an entry- level position, an apprentice could have completed a trainee programme in Web Design and already be earning a salary significantly higher than their graduate contemporaries. School leavers need to learn important skills such as how to take the initiative, how to communicate effectively, how to be self-critical and how to be truly adaptable. The workplace can be the best of teachers. Joining a team of talented people, learning from them and applying what you learn in real life scenarios can be every bit as enriching as a university education. And, best of all, you get paid for it.” JAMES REED

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