Academic achievement must go hand in hand with an entrepreneurial mindset

30/04/2015

The next three months will see universities churning out thousands of very proud new graduates – BA Hons, BSc’s the lot. A great education with brains packed full of new learning, knowledge and facts. But why do so many fail to find a job? How many of these bright new graduates have had their prospects limited by the conditioning of the external environment? These young adults have been supported in life skills and getting their head in shape for the next stage of their life. How many walk away with a personal growth plan that defines very clearly how to move their life on and make the best of their three years spent at university? How many have thought creatively about next steps… charity work, setting up their own business, free lancing using specialist skills they have acquired?

My view, is that we have some of the best academic institutions in the world and we create some of the finest talent, but so many never realise their potential and end up in jobs that fall way below their true capability – futures that lack direction, bouncing around from one job to another. It’s no use having a long list of qualifications if you don’t put them to best use. More effort and energy should be put into developing the creative and entrepreneurial mindsets that drive ambition and ultimately greater achievement. If you cant find a job why not create your own and set up in business? We need to see more graduate entrepreneurship.

I speak from experience, I left university in 1986 with a degree in Chemistry – great technical skills, but struggled having conversations, making presentations and generally selling myself to potential employers – no skills for life. I am not sure much has changed to be honest – I had to work it out for myself. We need to equip this next generation with a more rounded experience thereby allowing them to combine great academic qualifications with a mindset conducive to achievement and releasing personal potential. We must remember that we get what we think about. The universities are a rich seam of next generation entrepreneurs, work is needed to getting them started.

Are the cap and gown, the photograph that hangs on mum and dads wall and the handshake from the university chancellor the best send off we can give them? As well as the well-earned degree certificate, they should all leave with a “plan for life” or maybe a plan for their own business.

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Are the universities letting the next generation down?

13/09/2011

I am a firm believer that the UK has some of the best universities in the world. However, does a game plan to raise the bar of performance feature within their strategic plans, particularly in relation to what happens when they wave good bye to their graduates.  We turn out amazing talent, equipped with knowledge and expertise in writing highly intellectual theses and essays. But what happens when they try to get a job. As an employer and interviewer of graduate talent, what comes across my desk every day is CV’s that lack depth, an inability to articulate a point of differentiation and to be honest a document so generic it misses the point. The resultant effect is we send out piles of “no thank you” letters, this must be highly discouraging to those poor graduates who thought their degree was a passport to the world.

Well I think its time for a rethink of how we make the talent pool more ready for the work place – many universities have a careers advice service, but just how effective is it?  Employers are looking for a tailored CV, crisp and to the point, giving evidence led narrative, supported by an interview where the applicant is prepared and up for the pitch. Attitude is just as important as qualification.

So where does the responsibility lie for job readiness? Is it the employer or the university? My view it’s the latter. If it’s going to be the growth SMEs that create new jobs, I believe it’s the universities role to turn out more rounded graduates ready for the work place. Those who have been taught the importance of self motivation, the power of communication, researching employer needs and writing CVs that hit the spot. If we don’t get a grip of this we will end up with graduates whacking out hundreds of CVs and applications with many of them receiving the obvious replies – this will manifest into bright sparks becoming depressed and ultimately lacking self worth. A thought for policy makers.


Are business schools entrepreneurial?

21/06/2010

On my tours of the universities – I see engineering faculties doing engineering projects, I see medical schools practicing medicine. So why dont business schools set up businesses? Teaching business models and the hard skills of strategy  finance, IT, marketing, branding, product development is great – but entrepreneurs have something special – the spirit – courage, they build relationships, take action, have mental toughness and deal with setbacks – think on their feet – they are passionate about what they do – they have a mindset aligned to success. This stuff cannot be taught it has to be coached and to be honest I dont see a lot of it happening.

Business schools need to put their great thinking into action and help their undergraduates/post graduates explore the option of setting up companies – many set up departments of entrepreneuship and too be honest they are everything but. Are they equipped to be enterprising?


Mark Prisks Ideas on Supporting Entrepreneurs

08/06/2010

I like Mark Prisks new ideas around creating the “growth hubs” to support small businesses. Providing a modern service by offering online support features significantly in his ideas – good stuff, but…….. the reality is entrepreneurs learn from other entrepreneurs and from people they trust – i.e those that have the real ‘licence’ to offer guidance . This means that whilst having resources online is part of the mix, you just cant get away from the power and effectiveness of coaching or mentoring. A service that relies too much on the digital channels could be a false economy. Real business support results from face to face interaction where there is mutual respect.


Vince Cable’s Keynote Speech

04/06/2010

Vince Cable’s keynote speech on Growth

I found some very interesting points in yesterday’s speech. The comment on the need to commercialise and translate invention in to commercial application was so well made in my opinion. What worries me is why is Britain relatively bad at this? Universities sit on masses of potential and that’s where it remains –  as potential! Many of those individuals wanting to have a go at business with their IP often get the wrong advice – usually from someone that has never done it for themselves. Many of the wannabe academic entrepreneurs get so caught up in protecting their ideas, they forget that they have to create and sell something if they want to succeed in a commercial world.

If commercialisation is going to happen Mr Cable, you have to create the right culture within these institutions and get the right advisers who have the licence to advise. Research and entrepreneurial mindset don’t often go hand in hand. The biggest barrier to allowing enterprise to flourish is the very universities themselves – sort this out and the mind to market pipeline will become unblocked.

Read the Keynote Speech here



Got A Degree…But What Next?

04/06/2010

Academic achievement must go hand in hand with the right mindset

The next two months will see universities churning out thousands of very proud new graduates – BA Hons, BSc’s, the lot. A great education with brains packed full of new learning, knowledge and facts. But why do only 1 in 3 expect to get a job? How many of these bright new graduates have had their prospects limited by the conditioning of the external environment – the press and media telling them there are no jobs, whilst the economic conditions have (to a certain extent) limited prospects. How many of these young adults have been supported in life skills and getting their head in shape for the next stage of their life? How many walk away with a personal growth plan that defines very clearly how to move their life on and make the best of their three years spent at university? How many have thought creatively about next steps…charity work, setting up their own business, freelancing using the specialist skills they have acquired?

My view is that we have some of the best academic institutions in the world and we create some of the finest talent – but so many never realise their potential and end up in jobs that fall way below their true capability, with futures that lack direction, bouncing around from one job to another. It’s no use having a long list of qualifications if you don’t put them to best use. More effort and energy should be put into developing the creative and entrepreneurial mindsets that drive ambition and ultimately greater achievements.

I speak from experience – I left university in 1986 with a degree in Chemistry – great technical skills, but struggled having conversations, making presentations and generally selling myself to potential employers – no skills for life. I am not sure much has changed to be honest – I had to work it out for myself. We need to equip this next generation with a more rounded experience thereby allowing them to combine great academic qualifications with a mindset conducive to achievement and releasing personal potential. We must remember that we get what we think about – if we think there are no jobs then guess what…..?

Is the cap and gown; photograph that hangs on mum and dads wall and the handshake from the university chancellor the best send off we can give them? As well as the well-earned degree certificate, they should all leave with a “plan for life”.