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Weighing up education versus experience

Skills focus: people who work in trades such as plumbing and construction are in high demand in Bermuda (File photograph)

Before I begin my article, I want to thank The Royal Gazette for reaching out and asking me to partner with them and become a regular columnist. I was honoured to be recognised for my editorial contributions in a variety of publications over the past 18 years in Bermuda. As a new columnist, my articles differ slightly from the style of a regular business publication, but I hope you find them informative, thought-provoking, and relatable. Perhaps they might even provide you with a slightly different perspective on a topic you know about

As the school year has now officially closed, many students who have finished high school are feeling overwhelmed with trying to figure out the next chapter of their lives.

Many have already applied and been accepted into universities across the globe, and some are currently looking at the course catalogues at Bermuda College.

At the same time, another group of individuals are stepping into trades, where the experience of learning first hand will be critical to their future success.

Meanwhile, a fourth group either have no idea what they want to do, or they simply want to start working and earning their own money.

When you think about yourself at 18 years old, you can probably remember that the only thing you truly had as a constant routine in your life was school.

As we all know, children, whether young or adolescent, need routine. After 13 years of this routine, wham! – new graduates are trying to figure out what to do next, when all they know is school and the basic skill of classroom learning.

At 18 years old, do most people have the maturity to determine whether they are choosing continued education based upon wanting to learn more, or are they making that decision because they are not ready to break from a familiar childhood routine?

Let’s be serious: the cost of university education, depending on the location, can be high, and the expense is not just tuition but also course materials, technological equipment, residence, supplies, food, transportation, and other expenses.

To put it in perspective, a recent article published by the University of California, Los Angeles, provided what they called the Multiyear Tuition Stability Plan. The plan provides current and prospective students with a guideline for the cost of attending university each year, including associated expenses (see the table attached under the heading of Related Media on this webpage).

Now perhaps a student is fortunate enough to receive a bursary or scholarship to pay a portion of their tuition, but the reality is, it is not going to cover everything, especially if the student is coming from abroad.

So where does the remaining cost of education come from? It comes from one of the oldest institutions, “The Bank of Mum and Dad”.

We all know there are no student deposits, only withdrawals. These seem to be never-ending, causing a lot of eyebrow-raising, many words being mumbled under one’s breath and plenty of conversations being held behind closed doors.

Therefore, if a student is going to choose the path of continued education, common sense suggests that they should ensure it aligns with a career. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Conversely, there is another choice: one which does not involve continuing education, and which has seemed unpopular over the last couple of decades. This alternate choice frequently results in the perception that the individual “couldn’t afford to go to university”.

However, some students make a conscious choice not to go to college and instead head into the workforce, to make some money and gain experience.

A recent article in Forbes magazine suggests there has been a shift from education-based hiring to skills-based hiring, as skills are necessary for success in a role. Skills are predominately developed through on-the-job training and enhanced over time through practical experience (Robinson, 2024).

Furthermore, with the rise of technology and the incorporation of artificial intelligence in myriad sectors, employers’ hiring practices are increasingly prioritising an individual’s competence over their credentials, to ensure employees have problem-solving skills, are critical thinkers, as these aspects support business (Goel et al., 2023).

Choosing to work as opposed to attending university can make a lot of sense depending on the occupation or field an individual wishes to enter, and a great example is the trades. People in the trades include home builders, construction workers, electricians, plumbers, and other skilled workers.

All of these critical occupations require on-the-job training, and some require completing additional vocational training to earn a qualification. Trust me, at 7pm when you have a broken pipe, you are going to call a plumber with experience – and you are more than happy to pay for it.

In evaluating the cost of education versus the cost of experience, the truth is that there are no metrics to measure one against the other, and both sides hold good arguments.

Therefore, at the end of the day, it is necessary to recognise that some of us are more academic, some of us are more creative, and some of us are simply better with our hands.

We must each evaluate whether education will best support our endeavours or hands-on, practical experience will support our growth.


Goel, S., Kovacs, O., Vankudre, R., Bingham, S., Nitschke, J. (2023) Competence Over Credentials: The Rise of Skills-Based Hiring. Available from: https://www.bcg.com/publications/2023/rise-of-skills-based-hiring [Accessed 29 June 2024].

Robinson, C. (2024) Skills Over Degrees: Forget Advanced Education When Changing Careers. Available from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/cherylrobinson/2024/02/18/skills-over-degrees-forget-advanced-education-when-changing-careers/ [Accessed 29 June 2024].

University of California, Los Angeles. (2024) Multiyear Tuition Stability Plan 2023–2024. Available from: https://admission.ucla.edu/tuition-aid/tuition-fees [Accessed 29 June 2024].

Carla Seely has 24 years of experience in the financial services, wealth management and insurance industries. Over the course of her career, she has obtained several investment licences through the Canadian Securities Institute. She holds ACSI certification through the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investments, UK; QAFP through FP Canada; and AINS through The Institutes. She also has a master’s degree in business and management

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Published July 06, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated July 08, 2024 at 8:13 am)

Weighing up education versus experience

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