23 June 2015

Are university courses good enough value for money? Apparently, according to a survey for BBC 5 Live, four in ten of the students paying the new higher fees don’t think so. While that still means the majority feel satisfied, it’s still enough to raise the question: are students leaving higher education with the right skills and attitude to succeed in the workplace?

The UKFast apprentice class off 2014

The UKFast apprentice class of 2014

It probably comes as no surprise to hear that previous graduates who paid lower fees of around £3,000 per year feel more positively about the value of their courses. So, if the cost has gone up (trebled in some cases) what extra benefits are our young people paying for when they sign up for university?

In my experience, many graduates leave university with expectations that don’t chime with those of prospective employers. This isn’t to say that all courses aren’t good value for money, as many of the more job-specific, vocational degrees provide great training.

However, as a business that provides apprenticeships – and sees tangible benefits from these schemes – I can’t help but feel that there are other routes to a fulfilling career than the traditional university path. The young people who join us as apprentices are so full of energy and eagerness to learn, it’s amazing to be able to offer a hands-on experience and fast track them into a full time career. Not only that, but they’re earning money whilst developing both personally and professionally.

I often hear the argument that university gives people a great experience of independence and social life, but for companies that invest in their teams, this is also true. Increasingly, people’s work lives are becoming an extension of their social lives. One of the team, who has been with UKFast from the beginning, made this comment recently and I think it’s so important, as employers, that we nurture this mixture of work and play. It’s all about spending time with your team and providing plenty of opportunities for socialising outside of the office.

If more businesses decided to take on apprentices or invest in training and other alternative learning pathways, could we play a bigger part in solving the value for money problem that so many young people face when deciding how to advance in their chosen career? And if we changed the face of business from stuffy and corporate to fresh and vibrant, would more young people see the workplace as a social environment as well as a professional one?

What do you think? Do universities offer good value for money or is hands-on experience a better option?

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