SETsquared Blog

Oooo if I could be a student again

When I went to Uni we had a healthy dose of lectures and partying without much in between. I don’t remember people trying to entice me to join groups to do good or learn other skills. In fact the only groups were sports groups. So if you were not into sport, the only extra circular activity was drinking. Ok so I was a geek studying computer science – just me,  five fellow female class mates and 70 lads, with lank hair, a lot of spots and no ability to look you in the eye. Well I was female! The thing is not once was innovation, entrepreneurship or social enterprise mentioned. I didn't get asked what my business idea was or how I was going to save the planet or help my community.

Perhaps it was because I was a geek, after all I was destined to sit behind a desk and stare at a computer screen all day writing COBOL programmes. The most creative thing I could expect to do was write a programme that popped up funny messages to the user when they made an idiotic mistake. But even the programming world today is different. Geeks are cool. They attend “appathons” and “bar camps” to create fab apps. Some even make big bucks at it. 
So the world has changed. Students face low employment opportunities when they graduate. Employers expect more than just a first or 2.1. They want to see business skills, the ability to stand up present ideas coherently, people with drive and determination that have got involved in a multitude of activities outside their degree. Students need to show confidence, corporate citizenship, work experience in a range of settings and business acumen.

I get to attend a lot of the student enterprise events that bring together students from the SETsquared Partnership’s five universities – Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey. They are all uber confident with great business ideas. They present well and brim with enthusiasm. But it is more about the opportunity. They get involved in setting up really exciting social enterprises through the work of SIFE/Enactus. They get to enter pitching competitions to test out their business ideas. They get to be involved in competitions at local, national and international level. If they need seeding funding, the government has that covered too with start-up loans.
The opportunities for students are so great today. Yes it’s a tough economy and they will have significant debt but there is definitely a more rounded education on offer which is not just about academic learning and Universities are certainly switching on the “student experience”. I have to admit to being a teeny weeny bit jealous when I meet these bubbly bright things. I know I would have embraced it all, especially entrepreneurship.