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Graduate Entrepreneurs: A New Hope

Posted: 31/01/2013 09:32

"There is absolutely no reason why Britain can't create the next Google, the next Amazon, the next Facebook"

This is what David Cameron said to a collection of young entrepreneurs at the beginning of this year. Ignoring the fact that two of those three companies are embroiled in tax evasion scandals, he is right; we are the new hope for pulling our country out of this never-ending recession.

The government is rightly focussed on creating the next Google but for graduates as a whole to succeed, and to have a generation that thrives, what is needed is a broader focus to create a whole entrepreneurial generation not just a technological few. When I was at Durham University, do know you which alumni were mentioned? The founder of Gü Puddings, incredibly delicious but hardly technological, as was Richard Adams who pioneered the Fair Trade movement in the UK. We shouldn't be ashamed to step out of the assumption that our generation should delve into wires and Windows. These students were no abnormality; they were just students who weren't afraid to go against conventions and follow their passions.

To put this need for graduates to be entrepreneurs in some context, the recent report published by High Fliers Research shows that a third of jobs available will be taken by those who have already worked for the firm through internships. I should stress that this was a survey of the top 100 graduate employers but this prerequisite for working as cheap labour first is an epidemic that has swept through all working sectors. In addition, more than half of the businesses surveyed said that those with no previous work experience have little to no chance of securing employment with them. The managing director of High Fliers Research added with his findings that his latest research establishes that undertaking internships is, "now just as important as getting a 2.1 or a first degree". The research also produced for me the most worrying statistic from the results of graduate recruitment. They have stated that graduate recruitment will rise by its lowest figure since the recession began. This surely doesn't sound too tragic. However, for the last three years graduate job creation has been overestimated. Taking last year as an example, High Fliers Research stated that job creation would grow by 6.4% when in actuality it shrunk by 0.8%. This makes the 2.7% growth seem more than a little vulnerable.

All this is why working for yourself has seen such a huge revival in recent graduates; it is the ultimate equal opportunities work. You don't need to have achieved a 2.1 or do unpaid work to get where you want to go, simply have a great idea and shedloads of ambition. It is also a way for graduates to shirk unappealing graduate jobs. While the likes of KPMG and PwC employ large sways of university leavers, they aren't the be all and end all. The people I know who are a) happy with their jobs and b) want to stay in said place of work aren't in graduate jobs.

While it may seem like a hugely daunting prospect there is an ever increasing pool of support. The words I quoted from Cameron at the top of this post came from a speech where he announced a huge £30 million expansion of the Start Up Loans scheme, bringing the total pot of cash to £110 million over the next three years. The scheme provides a loan of up to £2,500 to anyone aged between 18-30 with a bright idea. The money comes with a mentoring scheme and other types of support. While ideas such as Start Up Loans have received a lot of flak for offering too little in the way of start up cash, a Guardian poll has shown that 85% believe that ideas such as these are exactly what we need to inspire young people to enter the business world. Another hugely helpful source for budding entrepreneurs is the The Prince's Trust. It has seen a huge influx of people seeking advice saying in the 12 months from October 2011 calls to its start-up helpline rose by 75%. There are also crowd funding websites such as Kickstarter (recent launched in the UK) which are swiftly becoming a highly lucrative way to raise start up cash.

At the end of it all it is simple. Ask yourself, have I got a bright idea and why aren't I doing anything with it? Life is littered with regret and with more support then ever: surely the risk is worth it.

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