Virtually every student asks this question before applying. It is a good question in the sense that joining the Skoll Program is a Big Decision - one that should be considered very carefully. In another sense, however, it is an odd question. These same engineering students never seriously considered "joining the workforce and gaining a few years' experience" after secondary school and then "coming back for a BASc." Young lawyers don't usually spend a decade in the workforce before studying law, nor do aspiring physicians hang around doctors' offices for a few years before entering medicine.
Another factor to consider is that plans to do a degree "later" are all-too-often made impractical by the responsibilities of life that come along after graduation: marriage, children, mortgages, a demanding position, etc. Better to exploit the opportunity while it is available.
Still, one can think of two possible explanations for the "work now, come back later" concerns. First, some students feel that they have just spent four or five years (and tuition fees) studying engineering and they wonder how it makes sense for them then to switch into management without ever practicing as an engineer. Here it is good to keep in mind that "management" is not replacing engineering in the student's career. It is being added. The most fundamental premise of the Skoll Program is that in combining the skill-sets of engineering and management, one Is enabled by a whole capability that is greater than the parts. The need for such people is very strong at present, and growing every day. Most engineers, in practice, tend eventually to perform administrative and management activities; why not hit the ground running, move up faster, and have an even more exciting career?
A second possible explanation for the "work now, come back later" viewpoint is that the MBA is felt to be almost a special case pedagogically, where experiences are exchanged as part of "class participation." Since the non-Skoll stream of MBA students entering Rotman have about 5.5 years of experience, won't this give them an advantage in MBA course classes? Not necessarily. Sometimes, "two years of experience" is really just "one year of experience, twice." In other words, one must also look at the variety, quality, and level of the experience. Then, too, one mustn't forget that Skoll students have16 intense months of experience themselves - the PEY - not to mention summer jobs and other miscellaneous activities in which Skoll students tend especially to become involved. Experience with the first Skoll cohorts is already showing that they can compete with the non-Skoll MBA students. They get on the Dean's Honor List; they get great summer (mid-MBA) jobs; and they find exciting positions on graduation.
In any case, each student must judge these alternatives for him- or herself. In doing so, however, a word of caution, as illustrated by the diagram below. In comparing the Skoll path to the "traditional" path, one must make the comparison at a fixed age. Comparing a freshly-graduated Skoll student (at, say, age 25) with a freshly-graduated "traditional" MBA student (at, say, age 30) is quite unfair. Both careers should be compared at age 30. (Or any other common age.) When this is done, the Skoll Program starts to look like a great head start on a great career.