By Professor Jim Saker
It is not often that I get self-indulgent in this AM column but something irritated me a little this month. I was walking past a presentation being made to some sales people by a well known manufacturer. After extolling the virtues of the company and innovations being made in their product range, the speaker then pronounced “you don’t need to be a graduate to be a success, look at Richard Branson, he never went to university, and Steve Jobs dropped out after the first year. What good is spending three years writing essays!”
Professor Jim Saker is director of the Centre for Automotive Management at Loughborough University’s Business School. He has been involved in the automotive industry for more than 20 years.
I was left to reflect on the oddness of this statement. Of course people are successful without being graduates and many are unsuccessful despite having a degree. The irony of the situation is that the manufacturer making the comments employs only graduates in management positions.
Perhaps the biggest irony of the situation is that the IMI had just completed the first independent research into the impact of Loughborough’s BSc in Retail Automotive Management on the careers of some of the original cohort. It found that 100% of graduates have directly benefitted in their career as a result of the qualification and would recommend the degree to others.
All the current second-year students interviewed by the IMI found that the opportunity to gain applied work experience and earn a salary, while obtaining a degree, put them ahead of other graduates who have followed the traditional full-time degree route.
The surveying of BSc graduates from earlier years by the IMI has been crucial in tracking the career progression of individuals who elected to undergo management development by a higher education route.
All of those interviewed felt their job opportunities had increased significantly since gaining the degree, with 75% saying that securing at least one of their previous roles had relied on them being a graduate.
Analysing the job levels of all the graduates has shown that 85% are in senior level management with the remaining 15% in positions where there is a clear path for progression.
When we first launched the degrees with Ford, we were pilloried in the press with “Arthur Daley goes to college”-style headlines, but things have changed. A wide range of manufacturers and dealerships now send people on the programmes.
In the past three years, the HGV sector has got involved, with Scania, DAF and MAN sending delegates. However, the most significant change has been the interest from overseas. For the past couple of years, we have been running a programme in Singapore for Wearnes.
The majority of these students were already graduates but wanted a programme specifically tailored to their needs. Significantly, they flew their whole cohort from Singapore to Loughborough to receive their certificates at graduation this year. We have also had a number of students flying in from Dubai and Canada to attend the Master’s programme.
Perhaps the speaker was right – being a graduate may not make you a success. But it definitely helps.