Denise Hall gathers timely careers advice from recruitment and third level education experts
ON MATURE REFLECTION: older students want to upskill or change career.
I would ensure that I had upped my skills to the highest degree ... They (job seekers) have to let an employer know that they are also on top of their game and that they have kept their skills updated.
WHILE the New Year hasn’t brought encouraging jobs news, experts in education and employment say the opportunities are there for people ready to upskill and face these challenging times with energy and enthusiasm.
University College Cork mature students officer, Mary O’Sullivan said: “With the CAO deadline looming, we are currently inundated with queries from prospective mature students.”
O’Sullivan says those looking to enrol in UCC courses span in age from 23 to people in their 60s and 70s. UCC has a range of full-time degree programmes available to mature students who wish to either begin or continue their education.
“Arts, social work, biological and chemical sciences, law and nursing are all proving popular choices,” says O’Sullivan. “And as the mature-student officer, I am always available to answer any questions about our programmes as well as the CAO entry processes, along with MSAP, HPAT, and GAMSAT assessment exams.”
Whether full-time or part-time, many mature job seekers are looking to up their existing skills or begin a new career. But Colm Buckley, managing director of The People Group Recruitment Agency, wants more job seekers re-training and improving their skills in a competitive market.
With 30 years of experience in sourcing and recruiting excellence, Buckley says that the companies they work with have specific needs. Buckley said: “Our job is to take a brief from a company — what they are looking for, what their needs are. It’s not really for us to counsel and sympathise with applicants, although we willingly do a considerable amount of advice-giving.
“And all too often, I’m dismayed by the amount of people who come in here after being made redundant and who haven’t really done all that much about taking a good hard look at the market and doing what ever they can to give themselves a more competitive edge. They say that’s what they plan to do, but all too often a sort of inertia sets in and they don’t actually do anything.”
Buckley has a great deal of sympathy for those who have recently lost their jobs. But after eight years in his current position, he has learned that attitude is everything. And he is seeing too many people who, he says, “still haven’t recovered from the car-crash.”
“There are jobs out there and quite a lot of them, jobs that the more mature person could well be considered for.
“But if I were 50 and looking for a position, I’d start with making my CV as sparkling as possible and I would ensure that I had upped my skills to the highest degree. I’d update my profile on LinkedIn and become totally proactive in every way I could, take responsibility for my own situation.
“Attitude is the most important. There’s enough doom and gloom about the place and nobody wants to hear from someone who is negative.
“There’s no question that it can be harder for the more mature job seeker but there are steps they can take. And older people have particular skills they can bring to the table, wisdom, life experience and so forth. But they have to let an employer know that they are also on top of their game and that they have kept their skills updated.”
Buckley, who is also a qualified business coach, says that the many companies who held back from re-hiring in 2011 are unlikely to continue with this policy in 2012 at the cost of their need for growth. He has also noticed a tendency in some companies toward head-hunting existing employees rather than risking taking on anyone new.
The National College of Ireland’s Robert Ward says that they have seen an increase in students over the last year.
“We have people who are looking for a change in direction, those who might have worked in construction, say. And a number of government schemes, such as Springboard, have also make a big difference. Of course, it can be quite difficult for someone who has been out of a classroom setting for 15 years. They can have concerns over referencing, notes, research techniques and the technical side of things. But we are there to help, support, give them the confidence they need. Education is the single best thing you can do to get back your confidence,” he says.
The National College of Ireland (NCI), which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, has recently announced the opening of a major new Cloud Competency Centre in Dublin to support and strengthen the development of this growth industry, both here and abroad.
NCI president Dr Phillip Mathews says: “The cloud-computing industry has the potential to be a critical contributor to the Irish economy in terms of growth and promoting jobs. There are real opportunities for Ireland to position itself as a global leader in this field.”
Meanwhile, Ciaran McGowan, CEO of Staff Balance, says: “At a time when Ireland is feeling the pain of increased unemployment it is ironic that we don’t have sufficient technical talent here to fulfil the demand.
“The Cloud Competency Centre also has the capacity to support local companies to move their operations to the next level, which is critical for the future of the industry and our economy as a whole.”
To upskill, reskill and develop a positive attitude is, it seems, the best way to secure those unfilled jobs that are out there.
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