# 26 (2014) The University Scam
It’s May. And over the next few months millions of inadequately prepared final year students will pour out into the workforce, aspirations of careers in their hearts and educationally driven CVs gripped in their hands.
They’ll be heading off to job interviews and, more likely, unpaid internships and work experience in the hope of landing something better than the title ‘shelf stacker’ in their local supermarket. Think ‘The Office‘.
What once used to be the domain of ‘earn as you learn’, YTS schemes and working your way up from the bottom rung is now bypassed by three classroom based, £9000 a year, theoretical, fun filled years where you don’t have to so much as dip a toe into the world of work to pass.
University for all (invented when the Government had to put all those pesky out of work kids somewhere) has only served to dilute a once precious aspiration – a degree – into something everyone has. Employers have been confused by the same level to which everyone has aspired whilst being unable to function in the real world. Now they are more likely to pay attention to what you were doing outside your studies than that once all important final grade.
Delusions of grandeur mean many students think they have a right of passage to leapfrog over the minimal wage start out jobs – entitled as they are by their overpriced education – and land themselves £20,000 a year. Instead they end up on unpaid work experience due to their lack of life experience and living on the poverty line.
You’ve got to be savvy in the workplace these days. Millions of graduates, thousands of jobs. The bottleneck is unprecedented. Many will never realise their dreams because continual knock backs do not inspire enthusiasm.
If you’re a creative, self employment (the undisputed high end of zero hours contracts and working for nothing all rolled into one) might be the only way for you to get a foothold but you could spend years, or your whole life, trying to make ends meet. Well at least you’ll be doing what you love. It’s got to be better than flipping burgers, right? Ever watched ‘Extras‘?
The question really isn’t ‘Will a degree get me the job I want?’, it’s ‘How will I interpret those three years?’, ‘How will I forge contacts in my chosen industry?’, ‘How will I spend my time outside the classroom?’ Ironically it’s the one aspect of industry they don’t grade you on. You could spend your three years doing the bare minimum for a respectable grade that’ll look like all the other respectable grades.
Because getting a post University job (any job, let alone a career job) is not about whether you get a first anymore, it’s about everything else you were doing as you were learning. And that to me sounds like an apprenticeship.