Following in the steps of self-employed VET graduates

Generally speaking, starting up a company or freelancing is not a well-trodden path into work for most VET graduates. In this post, we would like to give you a flavour of the profile, expectations and motivations of self-employed VET graduates in Asturias.

This tiny region in the northwest of Spain has an extensive network of public business incubators. Valnalon is one of them. Through a mix of face-to-face meetings and online guidance, business advisors guide users in their journey from idea to business creation. An online platform is used to keep track, capture and analyse a rich set of data and key performance indicators such as professional background, satisfaction, skills development, start-up rate and 3-year survival.

Valnalon caters for the needs of of a wide spectrum of users. But how many of them are VET graduates? We interrogated our data for 2018 and this is what we found: Almost 1 out of 3 of our incubation unit users had a VET qualification. And more importantly,  they were behind 25% of the companies started up in 2018 in our incubator.

We also looked at their profile in terms of age, gender, and employment situation. Only 10% of VET users are younger than 25 years old. Women slightly outnumber men (53% female vs 47% male) Half of them were unemployed when they first set foot in our premises while 34% were working. But data alone does not tell the whole story. Let us introduce you to Pablo Valcarcel.

Pablo is a professional product photographer. After graduation in a specialist VET school, Pablo decided to start up his own studio, Pablo Valcárcel Imagen Creativa. The journey into self-employment was not a solo traverse for him. Continue reading to discover two key allies in this journey: his former VET school and a local business incubator.

First of all, What encouraged you to create your own company?
After graduation I was unemployed for a while. It is not easy to find a photographer job in my region but I really wanted to stay and work here.

While you were at VET school, did you receive any kind of motivation or start-up support?
Yes, my school had recently launched CISLAB, a programme to encourage entrepreneurship among VET students and alumni. After attending a couple of informative talks I said to myself: “Why not give it a try.” Shortly after I set foot for the first time in Valnalón, a business incubator that’s only 5 minutes walk from my former VET school.

What role did Valnalón play in all this?
I was appointed a tutor, Sara Cillero. Without her support and advice, I would not have gone ahead. We met fortnightly and in between I had to do some work. The process is designed to reflect on different aspects of the business plan so as to make an informed decision. It took me three months until I decided to start up my company. That was a year ago.

Have you stayed in touch with your VET School after graduation?
Not really, but I am certainly available and willing to collaborate if they consider I could be useful in any sort of way.  I am really grateful to CISLAN, my former VET School. In my opinion the training provided is excellent and that’s largely because of a great teaching staff.

As a former student, what would you like to receive from your school?
I have no specific requests other than continue perceiving that mutual respect and affection from all the people I met there (students, teachers and employees).

As a former student, in what ways can you contribute to your former VET School?
I think I can share with students and teachers at CISLAN what’s been my experience so far. The perspective of an alumnus that today is lucky to work thanks to the training and support provided in the school.

Thanks for your time, Pablo. We wish you all the best.

PS. Pablo Valcarcel is an active member of Red Emprendedora (Entrepreneurs Network), a Valnalon initiative to reinforce employer engagement in education. Pablo has delivered career talks in secondary and VET/FE schools in the region.  You can check out his fantastic work at:



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