Opinion

Entrepreneurial SMEs: The best fit for ambitious, wild card university grads

5 min read

14 August 2015

Despite a record number of successful A Level results and graduate placements, there is still an absolute record ruddy skill shortage in this country – which is holding great companies back. Crazy isn’t it – and it isn’t just the government that isn’t listening.

I want to chuck my tiny voice in with the more established and more lauded that have voiced the opinion that graduates have not necessarily benefitted from going the educational route when it comes to entrepreneurship. 

I would also agree that graduates do not necessarily have more to offer businesses than those who have worked their tiny backsides off in a lowly job somewhere to learn the ropes of their chosen professions. But most of all, I think this country and graduates themselves need to wake up and stop lauding the big money, high-profile graduate schemes, and slighting the ordinary SME – and especially the entrepreneurial SME.

Sure, the top graduate schemes will indeed pay the highest wages to the most successful on the schemes. They may be advertising something akin to a year of fresher’s week social activities that the more spoon-fed graduates recognise as safe and familiar territory. 

They may come with glitzy packages from pensions onwards – but I would query which seriously entrepreneurial 20-odd year-old is prioritising safe pensions and carpet slippers. 

With carpet slippers in mind, and ignorance to the forefront, the graduates and equally possibly their parents may equate top businesses with business longevity – but have any of them read the stats on how many of even the FT top one hundred businesses are still around after 50 years?. 

It is a little understandable that parental pressure toward respectability and a salary to bring a more rapid reduction in the cumulative student debt might seem an easy way forward into the path of adulthood.

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So us SMEs have a broader fight. Each are already coping in many areas with chronic skills shortages – shortages that include what were once the basic 3 R’s that Britain was proud to provide our children with and are now almost a rarity. 

There’s also a lack of any encouraged problem-solving thought process from the force feeding that is our education system – a lack of practical skills for any of the skilled jobs that used to be provided by old fashioned technical colleges. On top of all of this, the communal garden small name SME loses out on the pick of the graduates. 

All too often we are supposed to fill the future leading positions in our company from a choice of obscure and totally non-relevant degrees from 5th choice universities if we aspire to recruit graduates.

We lose out – we’re unable to compete. But SMEs are fighters, so against these odds, more often than not, we make do and sometimes make do beyond expectation with what circumstance has chucked our way.

The real losers will be amongst the yearly crop of graduates. There will, of course, be those who embrace the corporate life as a variation on their scholastic careers. There will be those of the pipe and slipper brigade who would rather lead a miserable and sleepless existence if their employer was not as institutionalised as themselves. 

But for the really ambitious, the gamblers, the wild card players and above all the fledgling entrepreneurs, what could be better than an internship within an SME – the chance to try out most roles getting your hands and feet dirty in any department as the need arises, experiencing the highs, the lows, and above all the raw excitement of the battles of the SME. 

Graduates should be reminded of the wonderful quote: “That those who dare to fail miserably, can achieve greatly.” Take a risk on us SMEs and learn what living is all about.