Experience prized over academia for startups - but does the UK offer it?

One of the UK’s leading internet companies, Moonfruit, has published research which shows 81% of startups prefer to look towards experience rather than academic achievements such as degrees.

But the real question is - do the experience and skills exist?

According to the research, 47% of employers take more notice of relevant work experience which displays the necessary skills, rather than formal education which has been criticised as not giving the full-range of required knowledge that businesses require.

The most important aspect to a potential candidate’s personality is perhaps quite easily guessed, with 62% of respondents placing entrepreneurialism and creativity as the most important attribute.

“These findings demonstrate that skilled and entrepreneurial candidates are getting ahead of their academic counter-parts in today’s tough job market,” commented Wendy Tan-White, Moonfruit CEO.

Unsurprisingly, social networks are used to gauge a potential employee’s traits. Interestingly however, only 23% consult professional network LinkedIn (to which many display their academic achievements) whereas 77% consult Facebook.

In attempt to restore faith in the education system, and provide the next-generation with a skill set ready to tackle future roles, the Department of Education (DfE) is completely overhauling the ICT curriculum currently taught in schools.

A large part of this re-haul focuses on coding and programming skills, for children as young as five.

Enrique Comba Riepenhausen, a teacher at Makers Academy – an institution which offers fantastic programming tuition - gave me his view on the new curriculum:

“I welcome Michael Gove’s decision to scrap the ‘ICT’ curriculum in order to teach pupils more relevant computing skills, but I still doubt whether the education system is flexible enough to succeed in the long term,” he said.

“There’s no doubt that parts of the old curriculum are useful, such as learning how to use software like Microsoft Word, but many children will pick this up at an early age anyway.

“Providing pupils with skills that employers need, and that they don’t already have, will ultimately set them up for employment and help businesses find the skilled workers they have been looking for.

Riepenhausen added that, in many cases, appearances can be deceptive.

“It is widely known that there an IT skills gap, especially with regards to programming,” he said. “I’ve been in a position where I’ve needed to hire developers many times before and the same problem always arises – computer science degree graduates are simply not ready to be programmers.

“All the way from primary school to university they work with old technology due to the inflexibility of the accreditation process, and are so focused on theory based learning that they are often completely unprepared to tackle everyday practical tasks they would come across in the workplace.

“It is difficult to see how the change of curriculum will fix this problem, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.”

A step in the right direction it might be, but what was the alternative for Riepenhausen and many others when the system fails them?

“The lack of opportunity to learn effective programming in schools means that many people with an interest in obtaining these skills resort to self-teaching. I was one of these people and I can tell you it is a thankless task,” he said.

“The perception that you can spend an hour or two every night researching how to code and prepare yourself for an entry level developer position in just a few months is a fallacy. That’s why I became a teacher at Makers Academy, which is a twelve week intensive course teaching web development skills to novices.

“This gives me the chance to help others avoid the difficult learning process that I experienced years ago.”

What do you think about Moonfruit’s research? Do you support programming being taught in schools?

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13 Jul 2013, 1:03 a.m.

So what do you propose?, wipe out public education and Public Universities and give that responsibility to Google, Microsoft, Cisco, VMware, Amazon end the other biggest commercial monopolies in the planet?, for example. Let's then shape public education according to private interest and let's the boys get learning programming skills before they learn arithmetic or ethics.... and what about the incredible research and developments coming from Universities as Harvard or MIT and others in japan and Europe????