Why SMEs value ‘hands on’ experience

When hiring staff it can be very easy to pick people based on the qualifications they may have gained at university.


But an increasing number of SMEs are choosing those with previous experience rather than achievements, according to the latest Close Brothers Business Barometer.


It suggests that university life and the resulting degree are no longer necessarily a requirement for roles in certain businesses and sectors.


Instead, firms are looking at individuals who progressed into the workplace straight from school and who have developed as a result.


It would appear to signal a change in viewpoint as to how education is viewed, as training up staff from a younger age could be more beneficial to smaller companies.


Costs are reduced and younger people are unlikely to demand starting salaries that would be as high as those expected by university graduates.  


This provides less pressure on company finances, while productivity could be actively encouraged, boosting business in the process.


Easing the financial burden reduces the likelihood of a company finding itself in financial difficulty, although plenty of insolvency options remain should such a situation occur.


Such a situation can also aid the individual concerned as they would not face a mountain of debts as those who complete their university studies might.


63% of SMEs said they felt a university degree is becoming increasingly devalued, with two thirds of bosses believing degrees have lost value due to being so commonplace.  


More than a third of bosses questioned added that there is no substitute for practical experience as workers learn to cope with real world problems.


This means it is easier for them to identify and overcome any issues they may face in the workplace, as they can learn from mistakes.


Experience can also help staff in SMEs to take on different roles and tasks, potentially reducing the wage bill if an individual can be trained up in several different aspects of the business.


A workforce with a healthy mix of trained and university-educated staff is recommended, but it will vary by sector and individual company.


By Phil Smith


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