University leavers consider starting a business

Unemployment caused by a lack of jobs is making starting up a business a more appealing career choice for young people, according to a new study.

Some 76 per cent of students recently out of education feel that ongoing unemployment has made starting a business a viable option, according to a 1,000-strong survey by office supply company Viking.

Data released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) in the last quarter from April to June shows that there are 2.65 million unemployed people in the UK.

In the North East, where the highest figure of unemployment is found (10.4 per cent), 78 per cent think starting a business is an attractive prospect, despite 67 per cent revealing that starting a business had not been put forward as an option throughout their studies.

Of those people questioned who had already started their own business, two thirds say it had been explained as a possible career option, indicating that careers advice plays an important role in nurturing UK entrepreneurs.

Viking commercial director John O’Keeffe says that there is clear evidence to suggest that students need a greater explanation of the options available to them before leaving school or university. ‘With unemployment figures still averaging over 5 to 10 per cent in each region, it is important students are given as much advice as possible to maximise their future potential in the workplace.’

Freedom of working hours is listed as the most popular reason for wishing to start up a business in most parts of the UK, whilst Northern Ireland is the only region to list income as having the greatest appeal (70 per cent).

Funding and finance is cited as being the most daunting aspect of starting a business, particularly in the South West (90 per cent) where more than 40 per cent say they would look to gain capital from selling personal belongings.

Men are more likely to set up a business than women but are less likely to go it alone, preferring to partner with friends or family (75 per cent of men, compared to 63 per cent of women). Men are also more likely to depend on family for financial support (48 per cent).

Friends and family are said to be the preferred source for business start-up advice for 60 per cent of respondents, favoured over government agencies, entrepreneurial advice websites and membership organisations.

O’Keeffe adds, ‘Many entrepreneurial businesses were established by young people and it should be encouraged by schools and universities, especially in a time when jobs are lacking and unemployment remains high.’

Confidence to start an SME can be gained at University

Starting a business requires a certain amount of confidence and life skills which can be acquired through time spent at university, claims a graduate careers expert.

The Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) says there is a ‘rising awareness’ of owning a business as being a possible career option among graduates.

Graham Nicholson, president of AGCAS, says: ‘Having the confidence to start a business is partly a stage of life issue. For the majority of people, having three or four years of maturing time at a university does help with that confidence process.’

He adds that there is now a ‘good deal’ of support in place for students looking to start their own businesses.

‘This is something that has developed in the higher education community in the last ten years,’ he concludes.

Research from Barclays shows that out of the 4.3 million SMEs in the UK, graduates from the so-called ‘university of life’, who haven’t studied at undergraduate level, are the most likely to start up a business.

Less than half of SME bosses have a degree, while only 11 per cent believe having a good education is crucial to being a success in business.

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