(3 minute read)
The fact that I haven't been to university has shaped the past three years of my life. It's become a part of my identity and has helped me grow into who I am today. Which is an interesting thought because people say university does the same thing.
If work, life and living with my mum for the past three years has been my university, then I guess that means I'm graduating now.
So are you better off not going to university?
Recently, I attended Werkhouse - a weekend long workshop in a creative design studio with a bunch of industry professionals and student/junior designers.
It was great.
We were split into small teams and given 9 hours to come up with a proposal for a hypothetical brief. The whole experience was intense, challenging, but most importantly - inspiring.
At the end of one day, we gathered round to talk with the industry professionals about whether university prepares you for work? People who work in creative agencies are constantly saying that the people that are coming to work with them aren't coming in with the right sort of skills. What can be done to prepare young people for working in dynamic and challenging environments?
And so begins the university bashing.
Okay, it wasn't just university bashing, there are a lot of positives. University is great for lots of people. Most people that I know tell me they've had a great time at university. My sister is currently studying TV Production and seems to be constantly improving and learning loads.
What people were identifying though is that they don't come out of uni feeling ready for work. And it's showing.
In a world where agencies get thousands of applications, but not one single phone call, how do you stand out? (apart from apparently giving them a ring) It's a competitive world out there, and universities just don't warn you about that.
It's common to see universities saying statistics like "80% of our students find work within 6 months of graduating"
Is that work in their industry or some part time job at Tesco?
(not bashing Tesco or the people that work there. You always reduce bagels and I'm eternally grateful for that)
So my question is
Has not going to university left me better prepared for going into work?
I won't lie - regularly applying for jobs, working with clients and building a practical portfolio and social media presence has it's benefits. My portfolio may be the same size as a graduate's (and sometimes smaller!) but what mine shows is that I can go out to find these projects. I'm not given them.
Am I glad that I made the decision I did?
Would I have regretted going to university?
....ehhh that's not as clear cut.
One of the great things about Werkhouse is that I got to work alongside a bunch of students and graduates. And they were amazing at what they did. It really illustrated the point that everything I gained from not going to university, people gain from doing the exact opposite.
What Werkhouse did was remind me that we're all on a level playing field. Maybe graduates aren't ready to work in a design studio. But that doesn't mean I'm ready either. There is so much we both still have to learn and we can still grow so much more.
It doesn't really matter if you go to university or not. Just do what makes you feel excited, do what will give you opportunities to learn, and do what will make you feel happy. Just make sure you do it well.
What does matter though, is that there's a level playing field.
Not everyone has access to university. I was lucky in that I chose not to go, but others don't have that luxury.
It could be illness or income, but some people don't get that choice.
If you normalise university, if you make it seem like the only way to get the career you want, then it builds barriers. If there are alternatives, and if it's seen as acceptable to take those alternative routes, then you can build an even stronger and more creative team.
There has been so much progress already, and it feels as though school is becoming less of a university funnel (or at least I hope so!) but there's still more to do.
So when I think back to the question - "does university prepare you for work" - I'm left asking if it should?
Programs like Werkhouse offer people like me a chance to prove that they are just as good as people that go to university. Because in many cases, we are.
It's not about whether or not you go to university, it's about your attitude.
So just make sure it's a good attitude.