High-fliers could shun universities

Paul Houghton (third right) with colleagues and the sixth form students attending Grant Thornton's Business Awareness Day
Paul Houghton (third right) with colleagues and the sixth form students attending Grant Thornton's Business Awareness Day
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RISING university tuition fees could be encouraging bright Sheffield pupils to look for another way into a career in business.

Grant Thornton partner Paul Houghton says sixth form pupils from seven local schools repeatedly asked about alternatives to university when they visited the firm’s Sheffield office recently.

“One question which came up time and again throughout the day was ‘Do we need to go to university if we want to get into business?’ said Mr Houghton.

“The rise in tuition fees to £9,000 a year at many leading universities appears to be triggering a step change in students’ thinking. They are asking whether it is worth it to incur that kind of cost and debt.

“We have been anticipating a shift, and have already made plans to expand our school leaver intake for September 2012, but the extent of the feeling expressed even caught us by surprise.”

Thirty sixth formers from Sheffield High, High Storrs, King Edward VII, King Ecgbert, Tapton, Longley Park and Birkdale Schools got an insight into business life during an activity-packed day when they visited the accountants and business advisers’ Sheffield office.

As well as hearing about business and speaking to staff in different areas of the company, the students got the chance to try out their nascent business skills.

The day included a challenge that involved pitching an idea for turning an everyday object into a revolutionary new product – won by a team that planned to turn a bucket into a shower – and taking part in a business game.

“Some of the students who attended our Awareness Day will go on to become the city’s business leaders of the future,” predicted Mr Houghton.

“It’s essential that they get a taste of business life at an early stage, and we wanted to give them the opportunity to meet real business people and ask questions.

“Inspiring sixth formers to be the leaders of businesses in the 2020s and 2030s is what the day was about – partly for them as individuals, but mainly because we will need them to grow our economy.

“There was a real buzz about the event and the students enjoyed themselves.

“We hope the experience will inspire some of them to pursue careers in business.”

Mr Houghton added that Grant Thornton was committed to employing, training and supporting the brightest and most able young people as they enter the business world, whether or not they choose to go to university.

“Whatever their educational path, boosting business skills is vital to economic recovery and we need to ensure we nurture our finest talents,” he added.