Interview: Hattie Wrixon

Interview: Hattie Wrixon

Hattie Wrixon, co-founder UNFM

Hattie / 22 / Founder of UNFM / London

‘Uni’s not for me started after Hattie Wrixon, co founder  of UNFM, left school at 17 and started to explore her options. After finding nothing, Hattie, along with her mum Sarah, set up UNFM as a resource full of information, advice, inspiration and employment opportunities for young people exploring alternatives to university.

Uni’s not for me’s mission is to ensure all young people are fully aware of their career options, and see no stigma in exploring alternatives to university, and are fully supported on their journey.

UNFM are now in their next phase of development and have got a brand new website. Recently UNFM launched UNFM Society, the only networking platform for likeminded individuals who did it without a degree. It gives people the opportunity to connect to a range of employers and mentors as well as giving those already in employment professional development opportunities, online tutorials and events.’

What were you looking for when you left school? Why did you not want to go to uni?

When I left school I was looking for a resource to help guide and advise me about my decision not to go to uni. Once I realised that wasn’t available, I decided to set my own one up. After completing a PA course in London, I started UNFM initially as a blog talking about my own experiences of finding work without a degree. Now we share stories from all kinds of people who did it without a degree, it’s incredible the kinds of people you meet who want to share their own journeys.

After taking my first year of A Levels, I instinctively knew I didn’t want to go to uni. I was very keen on the idea of going to university as I was naively sucked in by the social life and the idea of leaving home for three years. However, tuition fees went up the same year I was about to attend and there wasn’t a course I cared enough about to justify the debt or social life.

Would you class yourself as an entrepreneur? What are your key skills?

I’m not sure if I’d class myself as an entrepreneur just yet! But I definitely hope that the site will be a success and that will lead me on to starting other businesses in the future.

I think for anyone starting a business you’ve got to be really ambitious and passionate about it. It’s never going to be easy and there are bound to be set backs and mistakes on your journey, it’s how you deal with them that’s important. My favourite quote at the moment is by Nelson Mandela: “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” Keep learning, keep making mistakes and keep persevering.

How did you parents feel about you not wanting to go to uni?

My parents were very supportive. They knew before I did that uni was not for me and I’m glad that they were wise enough to not think that not going to university would hold me back. Equally my younger sister is much more academic and they were much more encouraging of her going to university where she is now studying at Newcastle. She loves being at uni and I love running UNFM and we are equally supported.

What role does your mum play in the site?

My mum runs a brilliant PR company in London and has been incredibly helpful in advising me with various business decisions, helping me to engage with the media and most importantly has been able to pass on experiences of running her own business and the challenges she constantly faces so that I can hopefully avoid them.

What gave you the confidence to set the site up?

It was my mum and dad who gave me the confidence to set up the site. I’m really lucky to have very supportive parents.

Do you think schools fail students in terms of preparing them for work?

I think schools face a huge difficulty when it comes to preparing students for work. Currently our education system is based on academic achievements and exam results so the pressure to get students into university is much more of a priority than making sure they’re ready for the workplace. Although it’s completely nonsensical, it’s the system, not the schools’ fault. We currently lack skilled workers and we need to make sure that we are adjusting and evolving with the times. One size does not fit all and there are plenty of alternatives to university like apprenticeships and school leaver programmes.

What advice would you give school leavers keen to develop a career they are passionate about?

My advice would be to pursue it as quickly as possible and get as much experience in your chosen industry. If your passion does not require a degree then do some research and find out what kinds of programmes are available for learning on the job, that way you’ll be able to start your career with hands on learning whilst also being paid and avoiding the debt. Just because you don’t go to university straight after school does not mean that you can’t go back later on. 

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