Thursday, 16 August 2012 18:00

Is uni the only route to a career?

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The release of this year’s A level results has again given rise to the debate over the emphasis placed on university as the main route to a fulfilling career.

Businessman John Caudwell, who sold his mobile phone business in 2006 for £1.5 billion says that strong A level results and a university place are not the be-all and end-all. Caudwell built his empire, growing it to more than 10,000 employees and £2.25 billion turnover but did not take A levels or go to university.

"Clearly, for certain people, further education is absolutely the way forward, certainly if you're going into a professional environment where you need those qualifications," he said. “It also gives them a chance to develop themselves emotionally and intellectually, and enhance their education at the same time.

"But I don't think formal education necessarily plays any part in being a business success, in fact, possibly quite the reverse. I firmly believe that a challenging childhood that creates that drive, passion and desire to succeed is one of the strongest attributes to actually being successful.”

"Of course, you do need to be intelligent, there's no getting away from that, but being intelligent doesn't mean you have to go to university; being in a vocational situation, being in an entrepreneurial environment, and pushing for success, might be a way better education for some people that spending five years on further education.”

Recent CBI research shows that more than a third of employers, rising to 68% among large firms, expect to expand their recruitment of school leavers and apprentices with A-levels.

With more employers looking to hire at 18, often through innovative “learn-while-you-earn” schemes, Neil Bentley, CBI Deputy Director-General, said the Government should listen to business views to ensure exam reforms help better prepare young people for work and life.

“With the education leaving age being raised to 18 before the next General Election, there is even more pressure to develop high quality, rigorously examined options for those who do not choose the A-level route.

“Too often these courses have been the Cinderella of the debate and we need to urgently address this, by developing simple and effective structures for vocational study and by learning from the good examples offered by University Technical Colleges and others.”

The CBI will publish its proposals in new research on the education system this autumn.

Last modified on Thursday, 16 August 2012 18:04
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