From education to employment

The Career Passport: Will Everyone Want to Be Like Gary Neville?

gary neville Standing in Manchester

In this article, Neil Wolstenholme explores Gary Neville’s(@GNev2) transition from footballer to education influencer, the role his character and skill had to play and how Kloodle’s platform aligns with Neville’s holistic education vision.

There Was A Time When No-one Wanted to Grow Up and Be a Gary Neville

One of the most legendary moments in Sky Sports punditry history was an interchange between ex-footballing-rivals Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville. Former Liverpool player Carragher was talking about how Glen Johnson had become a full-back because he had converted from being a failed winger; he went on to say that being a full-back, which was Gary Neville’s position for Manchester United and England, was not something that young aspirants dreamed of, so, usually, they became full-backs by default, a consequence of being either “a failed centre back or a failed winger,” quipped Carragher, adding the eternal punchline: “No one wants to grow up and be a Gary Neville”.

That may well have been true on the football pitch, but, today, in real life, the Dragons’ Den star and property mogul Neville is a full-on, aspirational role model.

Most young people do want to grow up to be like Gary Neville.

The School of Football Dreams

As a ‘local’ lad, born and bred in Bury, a town just outside of Manchester, Gary Neville stands as a testament to the power of dedication, persistence and intensity in the sprawling tapestry of Manchester United’s history. His singular focus on becoming a professional footballer propelled him through the junior ranks, and he emerged as a key player in the renowned ‘Class of ’92’ – a group of talented, young athletes nurtured under the watchful eye of the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson.

Meanwhile, and consequentially, Neville’s commitment to the beautiful game left him with a sparse academic portfolio, his journey through education was marked by limited experience and few formal qualifications….however, he developed bags of character and life skills through hard work at the ‘school of hard knocks’ of Premier League football.

Character Forged on the Football Field

The life of a professional footballer at the highest echelons demands much more than just talent and physical prowess; it requires the cultivation of a strong character and the honing of skills that transcend the playing field.

Neville wasn’t the most gifted footballer compared to his United contemporaries Giggsy, Scholesy, Becks and Nicky Butt, so, consequently, he had to work and try harder.

As Fergie said:

“Hard work will always overcome natural talent when natural talent does not work hard enough.”

That was the past.

Having donned the prestigious shirts of the Red Devils and the Three Lions, Neville exemplifies the transformation to a life beyond football. After the final whistle blew on his career, he transitioned into the realms of television punditry and presenting, showcasing the adaptability and resilience instilled in him during his life in sport. Beyond the confines of the pitch, Neville has also emerged as a shrewd businessman, investing in diverse projects and property deals. He is what’s known as a ‘portfolio entrepreneur’ and his journey has become a blueprint for athletes venturing into post-football careers, proving that the skills and character forged in sports are transferable to various fields.

UA92: A Vision for Education

Despite his unconventional educational path, Neville’s intelligence and ambition drove him to challenge traditional notions of learning. In a nod to another road he may have trodden, Neville disagrees with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s notion of “low-quality” courses having little value and believes this is where people from disadvantaged backgrounds might get a leg-up to move into life-changing higher education opportunities.

Co-founding the University Academy 92 (UA92), named in homage to the legendary Class of ’92, the institution has collaborated with Lancaster University to select lecturers, design courses, and develop learning and study facilities. This dynamic partnership ensures that UA92 students can earn qualifications recognised and valued globally, making them attractive candidates in the job market.

Neville and his co-founders envisaged an institution that redefines higher education. UA92 has become a hub of innovation where industry experience is a fundamental principle and integrated with education. The college has collaborated with multinational organisations like Manchester United, Microsoft, KPMG, and TalkTalk to co-develop the academic framework and, also, be integral to the students’ learning journey. Regular guest lectures, industry insight days, and masterclasses offered by leading professionals enrich the educational experience. This approach empowers students to graduate not only with academic knowledge but also with practical insights and a network that supports successful careers.

You’re Much, Much More Than Your Exams

GNev, as he is commonly known, is not a big fan of exams and has publicly criticised the UK exam system, particularly A-levels, deeming them “robotic and methodical” and “prehistoric and need ripping up”. He advocates for a shift away from a system where the whole course’s success and a young person’s future hang solely on a two-hour assessment.

There is the bigger question here as to whether, in this era of the advent of AI, exams are now defunct. How much do exam results matter anyway? Many successful characters have left school with poor exam results – famous examples of Alan Sugar, Richard Branson, and Jeremy Clarkson, come to mind.

The Career Passport

Neville envisions a future where employers focus on a ‘career passport’, highlighting a person’s achievements other than traditional exam results.

He says,

“in 10 years no employer is going to look at your GCSEs, your A-Level results. They’re going to look at your experience in the workplace. But to get into the workplace in the first place you may be judged on what you’ve achieved in these results, and I think what you should have is a career passport: a body of work that you can be proud of and should be able to refer to your employers.”

Gary Neville’s perspective on education emphasises the need to judge individuals based on their body of work, skills and character development.

The career passport concept is exactly why and how we have designed the Kloodle digital platform – each young person on Kloodle builds a personal profile, which is their record of achievement, detailing the skills and character they have developed through the activities they have participated in over their life so far. As they get older, this is underpinned with employability skills from engagements with employers who are active on Kloodle.

Kloodle recognises the importance of holistic skills development beyond traditional assessments, promoting the idea that individuals should be evaluated on a comprehensive portfolio of experiences, achievements, and character traits.

We Agree With You, Gary

At Kloodle, we agree with Gary Neville; in advocating for a shift away from outdated and limited assessment methods, embracing a more nuanced approach that reflects the multifaceted nature of individuals’ capabilities and contributions. By valuing character, skills, and personal development, we aim to empower individuals in their educational and professional journeys, providing a more accurate representation of their potential and achievements.

Gary Neville has shown that through the character and skills he developed as a footballer, such as graft, grit, resilience and determination, he has been able to reinvent himself after football to embark on multiple careers. This is something that all young people will have to contemplate in the future AI-infused world of work when careers and jobs will change very quickly, and lifelong learning will scaffold their adaptability.

In fact, in the future, everybody will want to be like Gary Neville.

By Neil Wolstenholme, Chairman of Kloodle

Photo Credit:Manchester United legend Gary Neville honoured by University of Salford” by University of Salford Press Office. This photo has been edited for use on FE News.

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