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Top Entrepreneur Reassures Students Ahead of Results Day

Article date: Tue, 23 Aug 2011 17:16 GMT

Lawrence Jones, MD of UKFast

An entrepreneur who has built a £16 million turnover technology business without any A-levels or university education is reassuring students who are worried about their exam results.

As thousands of students prepare to pick up their GCSE results on Thursday, Lawrence Jones, who founded hosting firm UKFast in 1999 after several years running businesses in the entertainments sector, told them: "Exams are not the be all and end all. Don't worry if you're not academic and your results aren't the best. There are businesses out there that are interested in you.

"I didn't do A-levels and I didn't go to university. I cut my teeth on the shop floor, learning things that can't be taught in a classroom - it's the best way to really learn about business."

Responding to recent news reports that show the numbers of students choosing to take technology subjects at A-level is continuing to decline, Jones said: "Maybe people are taking less A-level IT subjects but we are seeing more and more people going into apprenticeship-style courses like the IT diploma and that's no bad thing. Vocational courses are more hands-on - they prepare young people for the real world of work."

UKFast got involved in the National ICT Diploma in 2009. It allows 14-18 year olds to specialise in IT in a more vocational way, by prioritising it within their curriculum. The diploma replaces 4 standard GCSEs and 2 A Levels within a student's education.

The Manchester-based hosting firm contributes to the diploma by holding a range of workshops, seminars and data centre tours for schools across Manchester.

"IT and technology rules the modern world. It's an incredibly exciting industry to be involved in. That needs to be communicated with youngsters and they need to be given a taste of the real thing early on so that they can engage with IT in a tangible, interactive and exciting way."

This year 4,002 students sat the computing A-level, down from 4,065 in 2010 and 4,710 in 2009. Since 2008, when over 5,000 students took Computing A-level, there has been a 20 per cent drop-off for the course.

"I didn't go to university, I didn't do particularly well in education at all but I learned my trade on the job. That's why we support the ICT diploma - it encourages people to learn a trade. It's a means of engaging those who don't take to formal educational.

"There's a big shortage of tradesmen, plumbers, laborers, plasterers, electricians, builders, and too many students. We need young people coming through the ranks with real skills that are of use to their new employers."

Jones joined the likes of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) to suggest employers take more responsibility for training their own talent.

"We can't moan about a lack of skills and the problems that brings to business and then ignore the part we play as business owners in improving the situation. We have a responsibility to do what we can to address it. Contributing to on-the-job training schemes not only gives young people a chance to launch strong and worthwhile careers, it also improves skills and our economic advantage as a nation.

"Apprenticeships and on-the-job training are good alternatives to university and they need to be supported."

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