UNUSUALLY, I imagine, for someone in a professional role, no one's ever asked what qualifications I have.

If I were to be asked, I would say an MLitt and an MPhil but, like I say, it's never come up. As I frequently drone on to the young folk looking to get a foot in the journalistic door, it's all about work experience.

For me, it wasn't only about journalism work experience. My part time job as a school pupil and then university student was in a coffee shop near to the offices of the Daily Mail, STV, The Herald and the Evening Times. I still remember everyone's drinks.

Shereen Nanjiani, STV newsreader, was a tall mocha Frappuccino. The news editor at the Mail had a double tall semi-skimmed latte and refused to use the Christmas red cups when they came out every November. David Leask, of these very pages, was a Venti extra shot Americano, ordered a few minutes after 8am most days.

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Shereen very kindly organised work experience for me at STV, as did the Daily Mail news ed. David Leask knocked me back, which he likely has forgotten. I have not. And that, as they say, was that. What I'm saying here is that I have a definite bias. I'm declaring it now.

Education is a very good thing but so too can part time work be; the two shouldn't have to be mutually exclusive.

New stats gathered to look at the effect of the cost of living crisis on students show that just shy of a third of students – 27% – have taken on part time work or increased their hours to make ends meet.

The Sutton Trust, a social mobility educational charity, surveyed students and, unsurprisingly, found they are under considerable financial pressure in the current climate. Even less surprisingly, those from working class backgrounds are suffering the worst effects.

One in four said they are in danger of dropping out of university due to cost pressures; a third from working class families say they have skipped a meal in order to make ends meet.

Nearly half had stopped going out socially with friends or had reduced the time they spend socialising. I find that almost as troubling as the threatened drop out rates. Obviously education is paramount but one of the subsidiary important elements of university or college is the social life and the responsibility-free opportunity to make as much hay as possible.

Those from middle class backgrounds, the survey found, are making ends meet by asking the bank of mum and dad for income top ups while the working class young people are less likely to have such luxury.

As will be no surprise, the cost of living crisis is widening the already existing inequality gap for students. While some young people are taking on extra evening shifts, others are still able to enjoy their down time.

What's interesting is that this situation is bucking a long standing trend of a decline in students having part time jobs. For my peers - and I'm not going back terribly far - it was common to the point of completely normal to have a part time job at uni. So much so that I find it slightly bizarre that grown adults would still want to ask their parents for pocket money rather than earn it themselves.

It's an uneven playing field when some students have to work and others don't but the solution isn't to make working students feel undermined or as though they'll have a poorer outcome for having a job.

HeraldScotland: 'Those from middle class backgrounds, the survey found, are making ends meet by asking the bank of mum and dad for income top ups while the working class young people are less likely to have such luxury''Those from middle class backgrounds, the survey found, are making ends meet by asking the bank of mum and dad for income top ups while the working class young people are less likely to have such luxury' (Image: Newsquest)

The notion that it's unfair for students to have a job with a one or two shifts a week is an argument for increasing student loans and legislating for internships to be paid work.

Otherwise, a part time job at university should be viewed as a boon. Surely no employer wants to take on a young adult with no experience of the workplace and none of the soft skills earned at work?

Parents and schools encourage teenagers to take on extracurricular activities to boost their university application forms because it's accepted that having a range of interests and skills is a positive thing.

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Weekend and holiday jobs are similarly encouraged. It's good for young people to have the responsibility of managing their own finances and paying for their own wants, even though mum and dad are still paying for their needs.

There's so much additional skill building and benefit that comes from working, which is acknowledged and encouraged for school age pupils. But suddenly when an 18-year-old moves from secondary to university we assume they won't be able to cope with the dual role of studying and work.

I've heard many a friend say that the drudgery of their part time job was a spur to ensure they did well at university and could move swiftly into graduate level work. There's an unpleasant snobbish to that attitude but if you're a parent looking to see a return on the investment of supporting your adult child then at least it's propelling them in the right direction.

In some political spheres in the US, degrees have been dropped as a requirement for working in government. The idea is to use a focus on skills and experience to ensure more people are in the labour market and that high quality candidates aren't missing out purely because they haven't been to college.

Governor Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania issued an executive order last month, similar to those already issued in Utah and Maryland, to ditch the requirement of a four-year degree for the majority of jobs in state government.

"In the modern labor market," the order says, "Applicants gain knowledge, skills and abilities through a variety of means, including apprenticeships and on-the-job training." Just like that, 65,000 jobs have been opened up to anyone with relevant work experience, regardless of their education status.

The government is lagging behind the private sector where Google, Apple and IBM along with General Motors and Bank of America already hire this way.

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I'm focussing here on Mr Shapiro and mentioning that Biden's administration has taken steps to make similar changes to federal level job recruitment. But Donald Trump was ahead of the curve, issuing an executive order in June 2020 that made skills more important than degrees. A stopped clock, right?

Like the chance to socialise with abandon, contributing towards your keep at university gives the chance to experience the workforce and find out what sort of working conditions you'll tolerate and what you won't without any real responsibilities, sure in the knowledge you're moving on.

Graduating with a varied and interesting CV and a wider range of skills, experience and contacts is nothing to be pitied for.