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The Big Lie We Tell the UK's Young People

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If you have a degree, you're much more likely to have a job than someone who doesn't.

It only makes sense, then, that if everyone goes to university, our youth unemployment problem would be solved.

The reality is that 47 per cent of graduates are working in a job that doesn't even require a degree. University doesn't come with the job guarantee these days that my generation was promised.

That's why I'm amazed that so many of us insist on passing on that same great lie to eager millenials who are desperately seeking a spot on the employment ladder.

We tell them, 'Now Billy, all you need to do is get the right GCSEs, do 10 A-levels and secure a spot at Oxbridge. Then employers will be climbing over themselves for the chance to employ you.'

Sound familiar? Not only is it unrealistic, we're likely setting them up for failure.

A recent editorial for The New York Times addresses similar misconceptions in the US. It argues that encouraging more people to attend university is 'deflecting attention from the serious work that has to be done to create jobs and improve incomes.'

It also states that only 7 of the 20 fastest growing jobs for the next decade require a bachelor's degree. I fear that too many young people are pushed down the route of higher education with the idea that it's the only way to secure a good job. Then they are disappointed when employers care less about what they learned and more about what they can actually do.

The truth is that 62 per cent of employers believe that young people don't understand what employers are looking for, according to research from the City & Guilds Group. In fact, more than half of employers would higher someone without a degree if they had the right skills.

That's not to say that a university education is not valuable in its own right. Indeed, it can be a great path to a career, so long as the student knows exactly what they are getting out of it. Without real skills, a degree is no more than just a piece of paper.

We can no longer afford to spread the great lie. The next generation deserves to know that there are multiple pathways to a successful career, and that employers are looking for real skills on a CV. Only then will we actually see a dent in the high youth unemployment rate.