Matthew Neville

London universities partner with “first-of-its-kind” online platform to provide students with skills to go freelance

Three leading universities in London are working with UnderPinned, an online platform for freelancers, in a “first-of-a-kind” partnership to support their students in commercialising their skills as they enter the increasingly hybridised workforce.

These partnerships give around 22,200 students, at the University of the Arts London, London College of Communication, St Mary’s University Twickenham, and London Metropolitan, access to an online platform which provides a “virtual office”, including tools to build a freelance portfolio, find and manage clients and projects, and produce invoices and contracts.

Students can also participate in a Freelance Business Accelerator programme, a comprehensive online course with modules helping students learn how to price their work, pitch to clients, and build their portfolio.

Currently freelancers in the UK face barriers which are particularly challenging for young people, with research carried out by UnderPinned and the Small Business Commissioner finding that 41 per cent of invoices are consistently paid late to freelancers, with up to 55 per cent of freelancers having not been paid at all for work carried out.

According to the latest ONS data, there are 4.1 million self-employed people, meaning those who run their business for themselves, making up around 14.8 per cent of the UK’s workforce. The UK ranks second globally in terms of the proportion of its workforce that is self-employed, ahead of the US, Germany and France and behind only Italy.

Albert Azis-Clauson, CEO of UnderPinned, said: “The UK is fundamentally bad at professional education. We produce some of the most skilled individuals in the world, but we fail to equip them with the knowledge or tools they need to build a business around their skills.

“Our educational focus on getting people into full time employment is fundamentally damaging the opportunities of young people. Businesses are increasingly turning to freelancers and hybridised workers, but the self-employed are disproportionately older.

“Whether they go directly into freelancing or into a new form of hybridised employment, young people need to get access to the knowledge and tools to commercialise their skills in the modern world of work if they want to succeed. It’s fantastic that London universities are recognising this fundamental shift away from traditional linear employment paths.”

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