Education vs experience
It's an age old dilemma that employers like me have faced for many years. Should I value a candidate with a relevant qualification over one with years of experience? Or should I hold out and wait for that special candidate who can bring both skill sets to the table?
Whatever your particular views, many employers I know have quite entrenched feelings on which skill is more important, with evangelists on both sides of the argument.
'If you don't work hard and do well at school, you'll never make anything of your life,' say parents everywhere.
Yes, no doubt we all heard our parents tell us that whilst growing up, and we probably tell our own children the very same thing. Whilst the "experience" camp tends to favour the examples of boys done good like the ubiquitous Steve Jobs or Alan Sugar - both famously known for failing at education but seriously succeeding in business.
The like of Jobs and Sugar both represent a temptingly persuasive argument. But in reality, there are the hundreds, thousands, millions of others who also dropped out of education early and now undertake jobs they have no interest or passion in. That is why, from my point of view, you can't do better than the middle ground.
A bit of both goes a long way...
Some experience is undoubtedly absolutely necessary in many roles. Any employee will tell you that their jobs became easier over time as they learned skills, gained confidence and discovered their own way of making the best of their job. The same is doubly true when you become your own boss. You can study all the theory you like, but when you're faced with your own startup dilemmas like 1am finishes and not enough paying customers, that's when you know what it's really like to be at the coalface! And I know first hand what that's like! Since I founded my own company in 2012, that learning curve has been tremendous.
An article from online recruitment portal totaljobs.com also discusses the same issues. In this, Matt Hackett, Manager of Digital & Marketing Recruitment Team at Orchard Recruitment, also sees the value of experience in the workplace "A degree qualification used to be a major deciding factor in who got the job, but I think as more and more people have gained degrees, especially over recent years, employers have become less impressed on the whole, and focused more on experience"
That being said, experience doesn't occlude the need for education. As the holder of a Masters Degree in Enterprise and Innovation, I can honestly say that my education has played a large part in getting me where I am today. There was a time when a university education was entirely theoretical. But in the digital age, we are seeing a change in courses available. While it used to be the case that you were taught the single 'best way' of doing things, educational establishments are now encouraging entrepreneurial thinking, offering courses that challenge us to look at problems in new ways. This type of skill set is exactly what you need if you want to succeed in the contemporary business world. Far from boxing you in or dampening your hunger or enthusiasm, education can indeed feed your passions.
Of course, highly skilled academics wholeheartedly agree with the importance of relevant qualifications. Andrew Main, Associate Dean at Bournemouth University thinks qualifications reveal much more about a person than just their academic prowess. "A degree is not just about getting a job/career. The benefits affect all parts of life; intellectual, social, sporting, personal, artistic, ethical, and so much more, bringing a greater depth of understanding than experience can provide".
Statistically speaking, having a degree level qualification could also help you to gain employment. Experts in UK higher education data and analysis, HESA, believe that as many as 89% of graduates go on to gain a good entry level position.
So, education vs experience? I'm all for the middle ground. Experience allows us to learn hands-on, whilst making discoveries through our mistakes. But, when you combine that experience with education, you find yourself armed with the tools and the knowledge you need to make the right decisions. In my view, that's what the entrepreneurs of the future really need - a heady mix of relevant qualifications combined with appropriate experience.
Andrew Jervis is co-founder at www.clickmechanic.com