Businessman Nicholas Wyman proves why real-world experience matters

Nicholas Wyman went from an apprenticeship to a Masters of Business Administration at Swinburne. He shares how an unconventional career path is often the right path.

"My career started with a culinary apprenticeship at William Angliss. I'm now an expert in international skills and workforce development. I work through businesses in the UK, US and Australia that focus on education and skills policy.

I run workforce programs daily for companies like Nissan and Mercedes. I work with different institutes in the US such as the Urban Institute. I also write for Forbes Magazine and LinkedIn and have been published in the US and Australia. My book, Job U, is published by Allen & Unwin.

Young people won't take apprenticeships. There's a stigma, but they don't realise people like me came into Swinburne as an adult learner. I didn't start study until my late 20s, once I had real-world experience.

We are in a challenging economy. In Australia there are 800,000 unemployed and 1.2 million under-employed people. The solution is to engage young people in the school-to-work transition.

"I now employ 600 people. I look for people who have a strong academic record and real-world experience."

I am most proud of co-founding a foundation called Skilling Australia, which has brought a new education system to Australia called P-Tech. It’s a fresh approach to how science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is delivered in high schools, which links up with further education.

It’s important to get the right education at the right time. I have 220 apprenticeships available right now and can’t fill them. For a well-rounded economy we need people coming into occupations in all phases of development.

I realised in my 30s I wanted to return to study and I commenced a Graduate Diploma in Business Administration. I believe that post-secondary education should include ‘learning by doing’. Swinburne offered a lot of group work and that really suited my style of learning, as opposed to a large lecture theatre with a talking head.

My father is an academic and realised that Swinburne would be the best executive education in the country for me. When I started I was still in the kitchen and I really liked the way I was able to do it in stages and build up to my MBA.

I now employ 600 people. I look for people who have a strong academic record and real work experience – Swinburne offers both. It’s an important concept and a great competitive advantage for Swinburne.

Employer hiring patterns are changing drastically. For example 30 per cent of Google’s new hires are not university graduates. Random House UK no longer needs you to have an undergraduate degree to work for their company. That’s why these industries are partnering with higher education. It’s also what employers want: practical real-world workplace skills.

My advice to students is to do what makes you happy and find the right educational fit. You’ve got to be passionate about what you do – it will create endless opportunities.

I still keep in touch with people from my cohort and there is quite a strong network. Networking is a critical component in career progression. While you’re studying at university, consider how you can build professional connections to open doors. Networking has particularly expanded my business networks in Australia, which is really important for someone who spends a lot of time overseas.”

In 2016 Nick was offered a Fulbright scholarship to study in the United States.