Come together now: How can we help grads achieve their dreams?

“Would you be the Keynote Speaker at our Brighton University Enterprise Awards next year?” Clare Griffiths, Business Development Manager, Entrepreneurship, University of Brighton, asked me in November 2015.

“It would be great if you could share what you look for in people coming out of university, how an entrepreneurial spirit lives at Propellernet and what you do to inspire each other.”

“Yes,” I said, “I can do that”.

So I found myself a keen participant in the awards ceremony, looking at the eager faces and hearing from the hungry minds of this year’s cohort of Beepurple Entrepreneurship students. With a spirit of creativity and innovation they have brought to life such exciting ideas as:

  • Designer Jewellery made from repurposed scrap rubber
  • Drinking water analysis tests
  • Harps for Health and Wellbeing
  • Fringe entertainment through live gaming with The Dilemma Girls
  • Dirty Cash
  • Aquatic physio

Handing out prizes alongside the Entrepreneurship team made me think about what these winners could be doing in three years’ time.

On the strength of their initial ideas, they have the opportunity to be thriving businesses, bringing economic and employment benefit to our city... which could be a reality with such sponsors as Santander Universities,  MDHub, and the Maria Allen Boutique.

Dear to my heart was the Harpist for Health and Wellbeing, Alice McGarvie – changing the day-to-day lives of people in nursing homes through the power of music. Alice’s talent with the harp and her business mind proved a great combination of magic and logic that made for a strong business idea.

I stood on the podium to talk about an 'Entrepreneurial Mind; why that's important for business and what can happen when you apply entrepreneurial thinking’.  And was inspired by the potential in the room.

I think I hit the spot. The University of Brighton is keen to develop students who are highly employable, which is music to my ears. 

The one thing I believe universities need to address is how long it takes to learn and then apply that learning.

To be employable you must be a practitioner as well as a theorist. On discussing the strength of the Data Analytics courses - whose graduates could be a great addition for Propellernet - we explored the idea of a chasm between education teachingand employment need: Live client briefs, worked on in a hackathon way, with a turnaround faster than most university projects, are sorely missing. 

It's up to us as business to be more connected to our universities to tackle this issue. 

It's up to us collectively to ensure that the students spending thousands of pounds on their education each year are getting a return on their investment.  It would be criminal for our universities to be churning out thousands of new graduates each year who don't stand a chance of getting a job, because they have not been equipped with the right skills to apply from day one.

I would be furious if I went to university and my learning was out of date as soon as I picked up my graduation certificate. I think our grads would be too. 

Talking to Vice Chancellor, Debra Humphries, she couldn't agree more.  Entrepreneurship and practical thinking needs to be a focus. Debra is coming into to Propellernet to explore this further. 

And she wants to look into getting a University Dreamball machine. 

See… if we come together we can help graduates to achieve their dreams!

By Nikki Gatenby

06 May 2016