UNIVERSITY is a waste of time and money, according to a number of young Australians who are skipping study to start their careers straight out of high school.
These Aussies believe there is no education like real-life experience and are opting to work full time or start their own business rather than spend three years studying.
They also don’t want to start their working life in debt. The average HECS debt is $15,200, according to research released by the Grattan Institute earlier this year, and it takes 8.3 years to repay.
A university degree is mandatory for professions such as medicine and law, but in other fields graduates struggle to find work because they are “over qualified” having done too much study and not enough practical experience.
News.com.au spoke to four 20-somethings who chose a different path and, as a result, are further up the career ladder and more financially secure than their peers.
Mick Spencer is 22 and owns a sports apparel business that turns over more than $1 million a year.
Mr Spencer started his business, called OnTheGo, out of his dad’s garage at 18 while he was at university and had $150 to his name. He didn’t finish the second semester of his degree.
“The straw that broke the camel’s back was I was sitting in a lecture doing international business, talking with my manufacturers in China on my laptop, and not agreeing with what the lecturers were saying,” he said.
Mr Spencer’s business is now in its fourth year and has seven full-time employees in Australia and five in China and Hong Kong.
Mr Spencer, speaking from his office in Shenzhen, China, said he was too impatient to finish his studies.
“I didn’t want to sit there and nail out a uni degree and start my professional career after four years,” he said.
“I’ve had two heart conditions, one that nearly killed me at age 19, so my personal challenges forced me to think outside the box.”
Mr Spencer also said he lived the university lifestyle “for about a week” before realising it wasn’t for him.
“I never wanted to live the lifestyle of someone who partied a few days a week and woke up late and went to class,” he said.
But Mr Spencer said he didn’t think university was the wrong move for everyone.
“I employ people who have uni degrees I just believe [uni] could be more practical, with elements that give people a bit more life experience,” he said.
Amy Cobley started working at Domino’s Pizza casually when she was 14 and still at school. When Ms Cobley left school in Year 11 she started working there full time.
By 17 she was store manager and by 19 she had bought her own Domino’s franchise with a 23-year-old business partner (who also never went to university).
Now 23, she owns her own home and is years ahead of her friends when it comes to financial security.
“And it’s given me opportunities – I’ve been to Africa and to the USA and I had an income while I was away which made it a lot less stressful,” Ms Cobley said.
“A few people I know have finished uni and are looking for work but are struggling to get work because of the workforce.”
But being the boss hasn’t always been easy.
“Owning a business has downfalls like not having a social life,” Ms Cobley said.
“It’s hard to catch up with people and you definitely miss experiences like going out on Fridays and Saturdays because of the industry that I bought into.”
When she first bought the franchise Ms Cobley was working between 80 and 100 hours a week.
“I’m back to about 60 to 70 hours now but you’ve got to work hard to set yourself up for the future,” she said.
“And it was definitely not as stressful as it would be for a uni student who has to study full time and work part time, especially if they’ve travelled from elsewhere to go to university.”
The happy retail worker
When Paul Hainsworth, now 26, finished high school he knew he wanted to work in IT sales and knew he didn’t need a degree to do it.
“People say uni was the best years of their life but living on Mi Goreng noodles and studying eight hours a night doesn’t sound like the best time to me,” Mr Hainsowrth said.
“I’m currently in a job that doesn’t need a uni degree, earning $70,000 a year.
“My wife’s actually a nurse, she’s just finished a three or four year uni degree but I’m earning more.”
Mr Hainsworth and his wife are in the process of buying a house, something he doesn’t think they would be able to doif he had gone to university.
“We’d be a couple of years away still saving for a deposit,” he said.
The loyal employee
When Murad Ali finished high school he considered going to university but decided against it because it would cost him too much money and he didn’t think he’d get enough support from the university.
Instead he applied for a job at the Commonwealth Bank. He missed his first job interview but applied again six months later and got a job at a branch in Melbourne’s western suburbs. He’s now 29 and has been working for the company ever since.
“I’ve worked in area insurance, customer service, now I look after 300 brokers in the Melbourne CBD,” Mr Ali said.
Mr Ali is earning a salary of about $80,000 and is further in his career than his friends who studied after school.
“I’ve got friends who have done a degree in psychology and they’re not in that field, they’re in banking,” he said.
Mr Ali said young people shouldn’t worry if they don’t make it into uni.
“It’s not the end of the day, just find a company you’re passionate about,” he said.
“Sometimes you have to apply four or five times but if it’s what you want to do you’ll be successful.”