Ella Heeks: My business week

The director of organic food company Abel & Cole found her degree an invaluable business asset
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The Independent Online

Higher education massively improved my business skills and chance of success. I came straight out of university into Abel & Cole, and within two years I was the managing director. Don't get me wrong, it was a steep learning curve, but I was much better equipped to deal with it than I would have been without those three years studying.

Further study is meant to stretch students. In addition to the communication and problem-solving skills it helps to develop, higher education also gives people confidence in their abilities and opinions. This self-belief is the only thing my state education didn't give me.

I'm keen to raise awareness about the extent of government funding available for higher education. I think that lots of people are still put off going because they don't know about the financial support that's available. Recent changes mean that 100,000 extra students a year are entitled to non-repayable grants.

In the business world, having a degree or other higher education qualification allows you to set yourself apart from the competition. I think that completing a higher education course successfully can be seen as a symbol for lots of things: that you are self-motivated and can stick with a project, that you are capable of analysis, and that you have the ability to communicate effectively.

I'm sure that most businesses are looking for these attributes in an employee. However, industry shouldn't be obsessed with university degrees. Businesses are setting themselves up for failure if they always assume that a degree is the best qualification.

University is not the thing that defines your potential, but it certainly helps when you are ambitious and keen to get on. Based on my own experience, I would wholeheartedly recommend it.

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