Internet entrepreneurs have cast doubt on the value of a degree in the wake of new figures showing that graduate unemployment is at a 17-year high.
A new survey of online firms has found that 90 per cent believe that a university degree is no longer a guarantee of a job.
Against this background, and with university fees set to rocket to £9,000 a year, 60 per cent of the survey sample wants the Government to offer more support to young people seeking to set up an online company.
According to official figures, a total of 21,020 students who graduated last year are known to be out of work, some 8.9 per cent of the total. This is the highest graduate unemployment figure since 1993.
eBay’s Online Business Index, one of the biggest surveys of its kind among VAT-registered internet businesses, also revealed that 60 per cent of their owners have no form of higher education.
Between 50-60 per cent of them want lessons in school to teach pupils how to set up an online business and think that more young people should consider going into business after their A levels instead of going to university.
Just over half of the online firms believe that the country’s economic problems will trigger a surge in young people setting up their own firms.
The news is particularly relevant to the so-called ‘lost generation’ of recent graduates who will struggle to find work in conventional jobs.
Speaking to the Confederation of British Industry last week, the Prime Minister said there was “an incredible opportunity for Britain, for new start-ups to flourish, for innovations to drive growth and create jobs. To build that new dynamism in our economy, to create the growth, jobs and opportunities Britain needs.”
Jody Ford, Director of SME Businesses for eBay UK, said:
“It is widely accepted that the private sector has to drive the growth needed to deliver an economic recovery, but this will only be possible if the Government provides the right conditions and incentives for small businesses to flourish.
“Such an approach must include offering the right support for young people to set up their own company online.”
Louis Simpson, an online retailer from Cornwall, left school after his A-Levels and decided to turn his hobby into a business. Now in his second year, his trade in figures and collectables is turning over £500,000 a year and employs 7 local people. He believes that more can be done to encourage a new generation of online entrepreneurs;
“I do feel there is a lot you can learn to help you with trading online, and if I knew how to professionally design a website from an earlier age then I would have saved a fair bit of money on start-up costs.
“These things do not have to be learnt at University though, and can often simply be practised through courses online or in your own time.
“I don’t feel anything I could have learnt at University would help as much as the skills I have picked up through working for myself. To name a few - time keeping and its importance in the business world, where meeting deadlines can be the difference between getting paid or not. Also, dealing with customers and their complaints, employing and properly managing staff are all vital skills that I have taught myself.”
1. Methodology for Online Business Index
· The Online Business Index is eBay’s regular barometer tracking the performance of companies trading on the internet, mapping the attitudes of hundreds of online firms operating on eBay.
· It is based on a major survey of 605 online retailers.
· The survey was conducted by independent research consultancy FreshMinds, using seller information provided by eBay.
· Previous surveys were conducted in January, April and September 2009 and January 2010
· On average, the businesses covered obtained 61% of their income from eBay, and 39% from other websites, including 7% from Amazon.
· All survey respondents are registered as businesses on the eBay site and have an annual turnover of at least £68,000 on eBay alone, excluding other sources of income. The largest group of respondents (33%) were small businesses with a turnover between £100,000 and £199,000. A quarter of the respondents have a turnover of over £500,000.
· All figures in this report have been rounded to the nearest percentage point. As a result, figures may not always add up to 100%.