More girls doing it for themselves

July 2, 1999

Many graduates want to be self-employed - universities are aiming to help

One in three graduates would like to be self-employed or start their own business but only half of them make it, according to a report by the Institute for Employment Studies.

The report urges teaching staff and careers service personnel in universities to do more to help students develop the skills they need to become entrepreneurs.

It says help from higher education in developing business skills is now patchy, mainly because self-employment is not considered to offer the same career benefits as, for example, large corporate organisations.

But the researchers say while financial rewards are not a strong motivation for graduates wanting to start businesses, there are other positive reasons for them to set up on their own, such as the opportunity to take early responsibility for their careers.

Graduates in the survey who had already taken this path relied extensively on innovative and creative skills that they had developed at university.

But they had significant gaps in generic business skills, such as accounting, book-keeping, product pricing, selling and business planning.

The report was based on interviews and surveys from careers services and responses from more than 650 recent graduates in a sample survey of higher education institutions and organisations providing support for young would-be entrepreneurs.

It found women were more likely than men to have some experience of self-employment and to consider a self-employed career.

Most people in self-employment had graduated in creative arts and design and graduates with better class degrees were slightly more likely to have experience of self-employment.

Those with a family history of self-employment were also more likely to become self-employed themselves.

A year after graduation, one graduate in eight of those surveyed was self-employed. By the time the survey was taken, when the oldest cohort of those surveyed had been in the labour market for four years and the youngest for two, the number in self-employment had risen to one in five.

The researchers also found a large number of graduates had a particular business idea they wanted to pursue.

"That aspiration, however, did not always translate into deed, and raises an issue for policy to harness, stimulate and nurture the ideas and translate them into business," they say.

They suggest this may involve government funding from the Department of Trade and Industry and perhaps courses on business skills in universities. Harriet Swain

Gerry McCann

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