With all the talk of the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) and the rise of automation and artificial intelligence, some of the traditional courses that have excellent career prospects are inadvertently being left out of the conversation between parents, students and teachers, writes Padraig Hoare.
It is a real pity if some students dismiss the possibilities of studying the likes of commerce in universities and institutes of technology — because the opportunities for a wonderful career and the chance to see the world have never been greater.
Ask a typical graduate of commerce or business information systems in the past 10 years — nay, 40 years — and the vast majority will say that they picked the right path to start in university.
Countless graduates of commerce in University College Cork have spoken of how many doors it opened because of the broad nature and respect for the qualification.
Countless graduates of business information systems in UCC wax lyrical about how they were placed in stunning cities across the world as part of their course placement.
The encouraging stories extend to a range of finance-related courses in the likes of UCC and Cork Institute of Technology (CIT).
Rumours of the demise of the traditional finance courses are greatly exaggerated.
According to the director of corporate affairs for the Irish-founded food giant Kerry Group, Frank Hayes, high-calibre graduates and postgraduates from disciplines such as commerce, business information systems and finance are still highly coveted.
Excellent careers in large Irish corporations and multinationals extend to engineering, food science and technology, sales, human resources graduates and more.
The graduate programme at Kerry means those eager to see the world will have plenty of opportunity to combine excellent jobs with living in countries spread across the globe.
Mr Hayes said: “Our graduates come from every discipline. Those with ambition, a team ethic and leadership qualities are always valued. Within Kerry, there will be travel opportunities, and work across the continents. The beauty of working for Kerry is that you get great experience very early on in your career.”
Mr Hayes said Kerry’s footprint in the US was well established, but that the opportunities in the coming years in Asia were truly exciting.
“The Asian market has such a great level of growth. The area of food is such an exciting one to be in as consumer habits change. The opportunities are immense,” he added.
One look at the state of Wisconsin in the US Midwest tells a good story of what awaits those who wish to combine work with living in a different land.
In addition to Kerry, the likes of fellow Irish food giant Glanbia are some of the Wisconsin’s best employers.
Ornua has significant US bases in Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota — the heart of the American Midwest.
Known as America’s Dairyland, Wisconsin hosts Kerry Group and Glanbia and is located around 60 minutes from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport; Kerry and Glanbia’s bases are also located about an hour from Madison, the state capital, and three hours from Lambeau Field, home of the legendary Green Bay Packers.
Many Kerry and Glanbia employees live in Madison, where the quality of life ranks among the best in the nation in regular surveys.
Madison’s school system is said to be also among the best in the US.
The likes of Glanbia, Kerry and others take their graduate programme very seriously — the companies want excellent graduates as much as excellent graduates want to work for them.
A Glanbia spokesperson said: “In the last five years, Glanbia has significantly expanded its Pure Ambition graduate programme with over 100 graduates on the programme today. The programme has a strong track record in growing talent and creating future leaders for the Glanbia organisation. Right from the start, graduates play a vital role in helping us shape the future of nutrition globally, gaining early responsibility, international exposure and experience of working in multidisciplinary teams.”
Glanbia graduates are mentored and supported through continuous on-the-job learning, as well as tailored formal development programmes, working with the best people and the latest technologies.
The spokesperson added: “This supports them on their journey to attaining professional status within their chosen specialisms (eg ACA, ACCA, CIMA, Chartered Engineering and CIPD), as well as developing broader technical, business and project management skills and certifications. The Pure Ambition programme has been recognised at the GradIreland Awards for the past two years, winning the Gold Award for Best Training and Development Programme in the Business/ Management Category.”
How high up in the major organisations can graduates go? Just ask recently retired Kerry boss Stan McCarthy. His career path is a testament to where a graduate can end up.
Mr McCarthy joined Kerry’s graduate recruitment programme in Ireland in 1976. He worked in a number of finance roles including financial controller in the US on the establishment of Kerry’s operations in Chicago in 1984.
Following the group’s acquisition of Beatreme Foods in 1988, he was appointed vice president of materials management and purchasing.
In 1991, he was appointed vice president of sales and marketing and became president of Kerry North America in 1996.
Mr McCarthy retired as Group CEO on in September and retires from the board at the end of this year.
Mr McCarthy’s successor? You probably guessed it — a graduate of UCC.
Aged just 43, Edmond Scanlan joined Kerry Group in 1996 after graduating from UCC and held a number of senior roles at the company before being appointed to the driving seat.
There are thousands of potential Stan McCarthys and Edmond Scanlans out there — the good news is that there are quality finance-related courses throughout Ireland to get budding careers going.