Exam results “are not the be all and end all” in business

We’ve seen two weeks of nervous students across Britain. Last week, students discovered their A-level results – and whether or not their university has accepted them. Tomorrow, thousands of teenagers will open an ominous brown envelope to discover their GCSE results. But do these results really matter in business?

Entrepreneur Lawrence Jones, who built up a £16m-turnover business with no A-levels or university education, says the traditional exam system is hyped up. It isn’t necessarily relevant to go into business.

“Exams are not the be all and end all. Don’t worry. I didn’t do A-levels and I didn’t go to university. I cut my teeth on the shop floor, learning things that can’t be taught in a classroom – it’s the best way to really learn about business,” says Lawrence Jones.

“Don’t worry if you’re not academic and your results aren’t the best – there are businesses out there that are interested in you.”

Lawrence Jones founded web hosting firm UKFast in 1999 after several years running businesses in the entertainment sector. Today, Manchester-based UKFast turns over more than £16m and is one of the fastest-growing tech businesses in Britain.

Jones believes that formal “traditional” education doesn’t always suit everyone. “We’re seeing more and more people going into apprenticeship-style courses like the IT diploma, and that’s no bad thing. Vocational courses are more hands-on – they prepare young people for the real world of work.”

Indeed, vocational courses, such as the National ICT Diploma, allows 14-18 year olds to specialise in IT in a more vocational way. The diploma replaces four standard GSCEs and two A-levels within a student’s education.

“I didn’t go to university, I didn’t do particularly well in education at all but I learned my trade on the job. That’s why we support the ICT diploma – it encourages people to learn a trade. It’s a means of engaging those who don’t take to formal educational,” adds Jones.

“There’s a big shortage of tradesmen, plumbers, laborers, plasterers, electricians, builders, and too many students. We need young people coming through the ranks with real skills that are of use to their new employers.”

What is your view? How much importance do you attribute to exam results when looking at prospective employees?

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