Formal education is it essential for success?

November 1, 2016

Formal education is it essential for success?

There is more than one way to achieve a successful career and it doesn’t always involve a university degree. Life experience, on-the-job training or perhaps even starting your own business can prove to be more lucrative. The Blokes About Town gave us their take on what’s more important to them.

Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg – they are three of the most successful entrepreneurs and businessmen of our time, but did you know not one of them graduated from college? In fact, Richard Branson is dyslexic and left school when he was 16.

Many business-minded people take the less conventional route to fame and fortune, gone are the days when we were brought up to believe that going to school, getting good grades, working really hard and getting a good job are the steps you need to take to become successful. Today, a good education and formal qualifications are no longer a proven formula for wealth and success, with many employers placing life experience and a can-do attitude above a university degree. To find out more, I asked the Blokes About Town for their thoughts on the matter over a delicious lunch at Five & Dime Burger Bar at Maroochydore.

Joining me for lunch was Sean O’Donnell, creator of Eco Nappy, a premium biodegradable nappy service delivered throughout Australia; Adrian Ramsay, revered home designer and CEO of Adrian Ramsay Designs; Craig Dalgleish, owner of Toni & Guy, Cotton Tree; Ishkan Kojayan, award-winning jeweller and owner of Laurisha Jewellery, Montville, and real estate expert John Pratt of One Agency, Caloundra.

Is a degree essential for a successful career?

craig: Not necessarily, although it can provide the rigour and discipline needed to be successful. It’s also a great opportunity to meet like-minded people who can go on to be lifelong friends and mentors.
john: No. I think past work and life experiences are some of the greatest education tools you can have. A degree can give you all the theory in the world but actually rolling your sleeves up and getting stuck in there, doing the hard yards and learning from all that time is invaluable.
ishkan: No, I don’t think it is essential. I know many people who do not have degrees and have extremely successful careers. Through hard work, determination and lots of experience they have probably achieved more than those in the same industry who do have a degree.
adrian: No I don’t. The fact that many of the most brilliant business people in the world have very little tertiary education is testament to this. In saying that, it can often be a quicker path to success to have a degree rather than not, dependant on what you are looking to achieve and the level it may allow you to enter the market at. In my experience I’ve found that success is more dependent on the personality type and suitability to the role.
sean: No. But it is essential to have determination, creativity and introspection and fantastic communication.

Blokes about town

What are your thoughts when it comes to on-the-job training versus formal training?

sean: A balance of the two would be ideal, but leaning more toward on-the-job training. This gives all involved a connection to the business, culture and brand.
craig: It really depends on the work and the individual person. Some people need the structured learning environment of university or TAFE, whereas others are more suited to being part of a work-based learning environment. From a hairdressing standpoint there is always a strong emphasis on in-salon training and development throughout a person’s career as trends, techniques and equipment are always changing.
john: I think both have their place. I have had both, but being a hands-on practical type I enjoyed the on-the-job training more, being in the real world environment and knowing the difference between the theory of how it should work as opposed to how it does work in everyday scenarios. Some things you just can’t teach in a formal classroom.
ishkan: I think both are as important as each other for certain industries or jobs. If you have the opportunity to do both, then I think that would be the ultimate.
adrian: On-the-job training is invaluable, in a real life situation you get the nuances that you would never learn in a theory-based education. When employing, I look at a wide range of areas including formal education. I use it as a way to assess if people see the job through and get the job done, far more than the marks they achieve, then I look further into how they have developed since they finished their formal education.

It is essential to have determination, creativity and introspection and fantastic commmunication.”

In many vocations, such as nursing and the police force, a degree is now required. Some would say on-the-job training is preferable in these hands-on types of positions – what are your thoughts?

sean: I strongly agree, a friend of mine is a doctor in A&E, he struggles with the lack of care from “formally trained” nurses and the occasional problem with knowing the parameters of their role.
adrian: One without the other would be a worry. I would say that both are required to get an effective result, whether it should be a degree or not, I think much of this is driven from a lack of the government to be able to get the selection criteria correct in the employment process, and they are hoping at selection from a more academic based group of applicants will do the job for them, I think they are wrong, and that you need diversity in the way you select people and testing them well will find the right ones.
craig: Yes certainly there is a role for on-the-job training, but as technology and best practice is developed and implemented in certain professions a degree is preferred. Also in a formal learning scenario different facets of that profession can be explored and lead to training in specialist fields. Hopefully followed by ongoing education.
john: You can tell someone how to do something or the procedure to be followed, but actually doing the procedure with all the quirks and idiosyncrasies that it might entail really needs that hands-on experience. A prime example of this is when I was in the RAAF learning how to fill Liquid Dry Breathing Oxygen containers for F 18 fighters. The procedure is all there in black and white, but learning how to deal with frozen fittings or connections that just don’t want to fit together or leaks that occur, all of that needs to be learned from the hands-on experience of doing it over and over again.
ishkan: I tend to agree that these types of positions would require more on-the-job training.  There are some things that just cannot be learnt or taught in a classroom or lecture theatre, especially when dealing with the public.

Adrian Ramsay
Adrian Ramsay

What would you choose first in a potential employee – skills (formal training) or attitude?

adrian: Attitude first, then skills – always. Culture is such a key to customer experience that if the attitude stinks, the business will stink as well. A great culture is worth everything, look at how Richard Branson approaches this and look at how we love dealing with his companies … it says it all.
craig: Definitely attitude – skills and training can be learnt, attitude can’t!
john: I think attitude is a primary consideration. Obviously skills are required in particular areas, but they can also be learned and improved on. A person with the right attitude to a job will make the effort to make sure the job is done right. I’m sure we all know people who are highly qualified in their areas but poor attitude can make them a liability, and in areas of customer service that can really hurt a business.
ishkan: I would look at both as they can go hand-in-hand. You definitely want an employee with the right skillset, but having the right attitude can go a long way as well.
sean: Now that it is a hard question, I would love to say attitude but I know I tend to choose demonstration of skills first. If an applicant demonstrates great attitude, determination and fantastic communication, they will be highly rated.

A person with the right attitude to a job will make the effort to make sure the job is done right.”

Do you implement training as part of your employment?

adrian: Yes. My team and I are always learning and challenging the growth of ourselves personally as well as professionally. Adrian Ramsay Design House employs a world class business coach, has a board of directors, and I believe that when it comes to getting it right it’s best to follow the rule of the three Ts = train, tolerate or terminate. We work to create KPIs that will deliver better culture and better customer outcomes internally as well as externally, and have fun along the way.
craig: Certainly. Training is one of the most important components of working with Toni & Guy in a very creative atmosphere and what sets us apart from other salons. There is extensive training required to reach a prescribed standard to work at one of their salons. Then an ongoing program of further training and education to keep up-to-date with new looks and techniques as trends change. That is one of the most exciting parts of hairdressing – that you never stop learning.
sean: In my business I choose people with certain skills and work in a collaborative way. This is a method of training and then I expect the person to work semi autonomously.

The first thing that strikes you when you enter Five & Dime Burger Bar at Maroochydore is the inviting atmosphere and genuinely warm welcome you receive from Andi Wood and her friendly staff – it’s what they pride themselves on. That and their gourmet burgers of course.
Made from scratch using the freshest, locally-sourced ingredients from the Sunshine Coast and surrounds, you can taste the love and attention that goes into each and every burger.
Using only 100 per cent Australian Wagyu beef, each of the juicy patties are hand crafted in-house daily and all burgers are served on a light brioche bun, with gluten free options also available.
The name of the restaurant is a nod to the unique style and history of the classic American Five & Dime stores, popular in North America in the late 1800s. Offering both indoor and outdoor dining options, the space integrates a nostalgic industrial decor.
We kicked things off by sampling a selection of tasty morsels from the sides menu including cheesy jalapeno poppers, hand cut onion rings and crispy crinkle-cut chips, the perfect accompaniment to your burger.
Offering an array of mouth-watering beef, chicken, pork and vegetarian options, after much deliberation, I decided on the mushroom and goat’s cheese burger and it was sublime. The perfect combination of balsamic mushrooms, sweet roasted capsicum, goat’s cheese, caramelised onion, rocket and garlic aioli, it really hit the spot.
Other popular options included the pulled pork burger with crunchy slaw and southern fried chicken burger, both of which looked (and from all accounts tasted) amazing.
Five & Dime is also open for breakfast on Saturday and Sunday from 8am and also caters for groups. If you love good food, good service and a great setting, drop in, you’ll love it.
Five & Dime Burger Bar
20 Aerodrome Road Maroochydore
Phone: 5479 5946

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