Jonathan Milne

Jonathan Milne is deputy editor of the Herald on Sunday.

Wanted: inquiring minds

Robert Jones. Photo / Supplied
Robert Jones. Photo / Supplied

"I'll pay for personality and an inquiring mind. I won't pay a penny more for a degree." So says Sir Robert Jones, one of New Zealand's most successful businessmen.

Jones did study at university - but says it's about broadening the mind, not training for the workforce. There are too many "bullshit" degrees, he says, such as marketing. Jones knows people who have done units in cross-country skiing and a degree in the life of boxer world champ Muhammad Ali. "Now, I knew Muhammad Ali, and there wasn't a lot to study."

One woman, he was alarmed to discover, had even written a 200-page doctorate thesis on the life and business practices of Bob Jones - without ever talking to him. "It was complete gibberish. If she really wanted to know what motivated me, she should have come and asked me."

"I'm staggered how little lawyers are paid when they start out. We wouldn't pay a secretary that little, for answering the phones, typing and making the coffee.

"But we do have a higher standard of girls than most organisations.

"The only way doctors earn big bucks is by going over to Saudi Arabia or somewhere. When I was young, wharfies got paid more than bank managers. And from what I've seen of the salaries in the Auckland wharf dispute, it's still true today."

So if Jones won't pay more for degrees, what will he pay for? "We look for someone who reads - if they weren't reading the newspaper and books every day, if they didn't subscribe to the Economist or something, we wouldn't employ them."

Jones does tell his children to go to university - but advises them to study subjects like history, that teach them to think, then leave. The piece of paper at the end, he says, is worth little.

- Herald on Sunday

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