Who needs a degree? UK’s self-made vocational elite worth £17.6 billion

 A-level students might think twice about their career options as research released to celebrate WorldSkills London 2011 the UK’s biggest showcase of vocational skills for over 20 years reveals the riches accrued by Britons with a vocational education.

The City & Guilds Vocational Rich List ranks wealth among those who have built their fortunes following an Apprenticeship or other practical qualification. And defying the downturn, the seventh edition of the List shows Britain’s self-made, vocational elite are worth a collective £17.6 billion – a billion pound increase since 2008.

The List, independently compiled by Philip Beresford, author of the annual Sunday Times Rich List, will be welcome news to many as it proves you don’t need to be born rich to become rich. Now worth millions, 94 of the top 100 have made their way in the business world on their own merits. Instead, household names including John Frieda (position 22) and Formula One backroom star Ross Brawn (position 34) began their careers as apprentices.

24 of the top 100 vocational millionaires have made their fortune following an engineering Apprenticeship. This includes Sir Anthony Bamford, the JCB billionaire, who saw his family fortune shoot up to £2.15 billion this year, putting him in pole position.

Dragon’s Den judge and leisure industry magnate Deborah Meadon (position 63) adds a boost to the number of women on the list with her self-made fortune valued at £40 million. Deborah is one of a handful of well-known women including fashionastas Linda Bennett, founder of LK Bennett (position 41), City & Guilds qualified Karen Millen (position 63) and Stella McCartney and cook and food writer, Delia Smith (both position 89).

Delia joins a host of other well-known TV Chefs including Jamie Oliver (position 33), Rick Stein (position 79) and Gary Rhodes (position 100) all of whom started their careers having completed a vocational catering qualification.

But while celebrity chefs may have cooked themselves up a fortune, it’s the entrepreneurs from industry, including high tech sectors, that lead the way in the 2011 List making up 30 of the 100, up nine from 2008. They are followed by property and construction with 25 millionaires and the leisure industry with ten.

The regional spread is as even as the spread in industry with only 24 of the 100 coming from the South East, breaking the North South divide.  Scotland is second with 20 individuals on the list, followed by the North West with 11 and Yorkshire and the Midlands tie in fourth place with nine.

Chris Jones, CEO and Director General of City & Guilds said:

“Our latest Vocational Rich List proves you don’t need a degree to succeed. The List not only celebrates the success of Britain’s leading business men and women, but also serves as an inspiration to others to discover their talent and unlock their potential through vocational education and skills training. Many of the contestants at this year’s WorldSkills London event have done just that and I have no doubt that one day we will see some of their names on the List.”

Entrepreneur and Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden, who appears at position 63 in the list, added:

“As someone who set up their own business at a young age, I know only too well how important it is to have the right skills and the right attitude to become successful. I think it’s wonderful that industrious, talented young people are being celebrated through WorldSkills London 2011; skills really do mean business and I hope that the Competition inspires people to think about different ways to achieve their goals.”