An End to Student Debt?

Dale Potts
Undergraduate Vocational Route replaces £10,000 student debt with a salary and college fees paid.

In September many students will begin university degree courses that will probably leave them with debts at the end of three years totalling in excess of £10,000. Others, such as those combining degree studies with a job at leading project and cost consultancy Faithful+Gould, will earn a salary from day one and have their College fees paid.

Of course, there’s nothing new about companies sponsoring students through their undergraduate years. However, historically, such opportunities have been relatively limited, whilst graduate recruitment programmes, designed to attract newly qualified students, have been the norm.

Faithful+Gould, part of the WS Atkins engineering group, now offers some 20 places a year to school leavers wishing to obtain degree qualifications in surveying disciplines. It prefers to bring people into the business young and begin what is a continuous programme of training running throughout their careers with the company.

Faithful+Gould Human Resources Director Chris Marsh commented, "There’s real competition for places – you must have the appropriate A Level qualifications to get on a degree course and, since study is combined with a full time job, it takes longer to obtain the degree."

The qualification when achieved, however, is accompanied by five years of immensely valuable work experience which, believes Chris Marsh, creates a more rounded individual better able to maximise his or her potential.

Faithful+Gould began life as a firm of quantity surveyors but today looks after major development projects for organisations operating in the transport, property and industry sectors from inception to completion, offering a broad range of commercial services. Among the organisation’s unique selling points are its people and approach to teamwork and partnership.

Unusually for a company in its sector, it invests very heavily in training. 2004 will see the company spending up to £1 million on training, including funding 30 plus BSc students and, if past records are anything to go by, obtaining consistently high pass rates in the professional APC examinations.

Chris Marsh added, "The investment reaps major dividends for the individuals involved and the company. We operate in a global marketplace which involves us in highly complex schemes with £multi-million budgets and with some of the world’s most familiar construction projects. Our clients come to us for industry leading advice and an innovative approach. Ultimately, the investment we make in training pays for itself many fold on the bottom line."