Why education doesn’t end at school

woman studying, learning

By Debbie Dore, chief executive at Association for Project Management

Young people are all told the same thing while they’re at school – that if they don’t do well in their exams and progress to university, it will have a detrimental impact on their careers.

Many leave school thinking a degree is their only option. As a result, not landing a university place (or discovering higher education isn’t for them) can leave young people feeling confused and concerned about their futures. But it doesn’t have to be that way….

I left school at 16 with only GCSE’s and wanted to be an international show jumper. After pressure from my parents to do ‘something useful’, I ended up doing a diploma in business administration. After a decade working for myself in hospitality and catering, I found myself with a young baby wondering what to do next with my life. I decided that I needed to improve my business skills if I was going to get where I wanted to go and took a vocational diploma in management.

Fast forward to 2004 and I had worked my way up to become managing director of a global publishing services company. Four years later, I was global chief commercial & operations officer managing teams across 25 countries. I became known as someone who could deliver significant change projects and improvements to large organisations with differing cultures and ways of working.

I joined Association for Project Management (APM) four years ago because I have a passion for change, people and projects and felt it was time to help others to get the opportunities that I had. Project management is a growing and particularly rewarding profession – so many projects are focused on making a real difference, be it societal, environmental or technological. It also offers a wealth of opportunities to learn new skills on the job.

With 502,000 young people in the UK aged 16-24 unemployed (between April to June 2019 alone), vocational routes to learning new skills are crucial. But it’s not just about the young. If you’re not happy with your career progression so far, it’s never too late to change. Many women on maternity leave assess and consider big changes to their careers, as I did. You have a lot of time to think when you’re off work with a baby and, unfortunately, not all career paths give women the flexibility that they need when they want to return to work – though thankfully this is slowly changing.

With every role I’ve had, good or bad, I’ve learned something that I still apply in my career to this day. By learning new skills and making big changes within your career, you can open so many doors and new opportunities although education and qualifications all help – you don’t need a degree in order to be successful. It’s never too late to be bold and carve a new path for yourself as long as you are always open to learning from others and have a passion for what you do.

Debbie Dore - Chief Executive at APMAbout the author

Debbie Dore is Chief Executive of the Association for Project Management (APM), having been previously Chief Commercial Officer and Chief Operating Officer. Prior to joining APM, Debbie served as a senior executive at Oxford University Press and on the board at Swets Information Services delivering global transformation projects across sales, IT and customer service.

Having had responsibility for teams in 25 countries, Debbie has extensive international experience and has a proven track record in delivering significant business change programmes, driving growth and increasing profitability. Debbie has also served as a non-executive director for UKSG, a membership organisation connecting the knowledge community, and as a volunteer for Inspiring Future Careers. Debbie’s interests are travelling and property renovation.

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