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Why a potential young employee with work experience has as much to offer as one with a degree

The number of young Europeans going to university has soared over the last several decades. In many countries, university was seen as the natural next step after finishing school and there were few alternatives for young people other than heading straight into the workplace. While attitudes have changed in recent years, with the importance of Vocational Education and Training (VET) and apprenticeships gaining traction, many businesses and organisations still insist that their potential employees have a degree.

For some industries – particularly scientific or medical ones – the requirements of the roles are such that a university degree is truly essential. But what about those industries that aren’t in this position? Could they be missing out on the perfect candidate simply because that young person chose to work instead of study?

Yes, we think they could.

Real-world experience

Non-graduates have as much to offer as graduates, just in different ways. While they may lack the knowledge and cutting-edge techniques a university course could teach, they’re more likely to have relevant work experience – possibly years of it – and this real-world experience is priceless when it comes to driving your business forward. Knowledge of the industry, clients, procedures and approaches make for a well-rounded employee who has insight that a graduate might lack.

Soft skills

Communication, teamwork, problem-solving, negotiation… work is about a lot more than just practical knowledge. While university life will certainly touch on aspects of communicating effectively and working as a team, these ‘soft skills’ are typically developed through experience in a workplace. Young workers will learn to handle responsibility, work under pressure and manage deadlines in a way that their university-based counterparts might not.

Knowing the workplace

Walking into that first post-university job can be a shock. Not only is it a completely new environment, but life in a workplace requires a different approach to life at university. It can take time to learn how to conduct yourself appropriately and adjust to working with colleagues, who will all have their own approaches and quirks.

Those with work experience in the place of a degree are likely to have an easier transition as they’ll have experienced the workplace environment before. They’ll also be able to contribute to the company straight away thanks to their pre-existing skills, rather than having to be trained in the way that a graduate might.

On an equal footing

Of course, we’re not saying that companies should never hire graduates – after all, graduates have a lot to offer and time at university teaches some valuable lessons. But by keeping their options open and considering those with work experience on an equal footing, businesses and organisations will benefit from the best of both worlds and find the ideal candidate to join their company.



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