Are Skills And Experience More Valuable Than A Degree?

6 years ago


A controversial topic I’m sure you’ll agree. However, with university places continuing to be at an all-time high and employer’s having the ‘pick of the crop’, are businesses getting choosier about candidates having work experience over qualifications? Many recruiters now focus on a candidates skills and experiences rather than their grades and education history.

It would appear that times are changing for those candidate fresh out of university with a shiny new degree. Missing that vital ‘on the job’ experience is proving to be an ongoing issue relating to thousands of graduated across the country; but which is more valued – a degree or experience and skills?

Graduates – The Stats:

  • In 2013 one in four 21-year-old graduates were unemployed, according to the Office for National Statistics
  • A fifth of recent graduates are working as waiters, check-out operators, filing clerks or in other retail, catering and secretarial roles- (2013 statistics)
  • The average student spends 13.9 hours in timetabled tutorials, seminars and lectures a week
  • The average degree last 3 years
  • New graduates face intense competition and take longer to secure a job
  • In 2013/14- 90% of graduates were in employment or further study 6 months after graduation
  • Unemployment rate for graduates is down to 7.8%

Experience & Skills – The Stats:

  • 58% employers rated work experience as “the most popular attribute among those presented”
  • Important attributes employers seek include:
    – Internships
  • experience during college
  • volunteer experience

A study by The University of Hertfordshire revealed employers looked for the following attributes, in decreasing importance, when hiring graduates:

  1. Relevant work experience
  2. Good work ethic/attitude
  3. Degree subject studied
  4. Ability to be a team player
  5. Mature attitude
  6. Class of degree
  7. Easy-going, cheerful attitude
  8. Reputation of university attended
  9. Ambitious and career-minded
  10. Natural leadership

However, university remains the go to option for many British teenagers, even after university fees tripling to £9,000. In 1982, there was a total of 171,000 university applications received, including those from foreign students, compare this with a massive 563,320 UK domicile UCAS applications in 2013/14 and it is easy to see the popularity in higher education.

It does seem however that what employers really want is the best of both worlds, which can be hard to achieve. Waitrose hit the nail on the head with their requirements:

“We’re looking for exceptional, rounded, ambitious individuals who can show sustained involvement in activities other than the purely academic, such as work experience, industrial placements and voluntary work in the UK or abroad.”

Since the recession, many employees have realised that a school leaver with experience can add just as much, if not more value than a graduate with a degree. However, in a world where job security is increasingly hard to achieve and graduates are finding it more and more difficult to secure quality jobs, graduates are more motivated and more driven than ever before. This could be the one factor that gives them the edge over rivals.

At Cummins Mellor our motto for hiring is – ‘Recruit for attitude, train for skills’ and we are constantly looking for ‘Cummins Mellor People’ to join our team. We have made many successful appointments purely through recommendations from our staff based on ‘can-do’ attitudes. To add to that, currently 20% of our workforce are apprentices who chose not to go down the route of a degree and are here learning their trade supported by training and colleague expertise.

We pride ourselves on hiring employees from a wide range of experiences, some who undertook full degrees from universities across the country and some who joined us straight out of high school.

So can it be said that experience and skills more valuable than a degree? The jury’s out!

Meet the Cummins Mellor team here!

We are currently hiring and if you think you’d be the perfect addition to our team, check out our vacancies!

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