THE BIG READ: How a strong jobs market is giving college graduates the chance to stay in Ireland

This is the strongest jobs market since 2007. Graduates will reap the rewards, writes JOHN DALY

Things are looking up for graduates. For the first time since the economic collapse, they have options and offers to stay at home.

“Power in the jobs market is returning to the jobseeker,” according to Jane Lorigan of, as the company’s Jobs Index recorded a 14% rise in the total number of jobs advertised annually.

The increase is supported by growth in a number of industries, with graduate jobs up by 15% year on year.

“This is the strongest jobs market since 2007, with much of this growth in Dublin and other large urban areas, including Cork and Galway.”

Sectors recording a rise in jobs advertised include:

  • Medical professionals and healthcare, up 50%;
  • Science, pharmaceuticals, and food, up 45%;
  • Transport, up by 40%;
  • Hotel and catering, up 31%;
  • Production, manufacturing, and materials, up 22%;
  • Secretarial and admin, up by 23%;
  • HR and recruitment, up by 20%;
  • Banking, financial services, and insurance, up 18%;
  • IT, up by 11%;
  • Construction, architecture, property, and engineering, up 7%.

“The graduate jobs market was up 18% last year, with growth at corporate level and increased optimism about the future,” says Mark Mitchell, Grad Ireland director.

“Indeed, 50% of over 7,000 graduate employers we surveyed said they had challenges filling vacancies. Employers are competing to get the best graduate talent.”

Poor recruitment practices evident during the downturn, and still prevalent today, need to be reassessed, says Ms Lorigan. “Companies need to recognise the shift in power to the jobseeker and improve on these poor recruitment practices. Companies have to compete for talented jobseekers and those that treat candidates with respect will attract the best people.”

In November, Cork Institute of Technology conferred 230 graduates in the Department of Tourism & Hospitality. The graduates comprised the areas of tourism, hospitality, and culinary.


“These recent entrants to the tourism and hospitality industry will have spent from two to four years in CIT, with studies comprised of traditional class time, along with practical classes and industry placement,” said Donagh Davern of CIT’s Department of Tourism & Hospitality.

“100% of this year’s graduates have secured employment, immediately on completion of their studies, in an industry which is growing and provides ample job opportunities, along with opportunities for development and progression.”

According to the Irish Hotels Federation’s recent quarterly barometer, 89% of hotels and guesthouses reported an upturn in business in 2015, with the industry experiencing growth in all key markets. Overseas visitors were up 12% year-to-date and are set to reach 7.8m by the year end.

The industry is already among the top indigenous employers, with approximately 205,000 jobs in the area, equating to 11% of the country’s employment. Aided by initiatives such as the Wild Atlantic Way and the retention of the reduced tourism Vat rate of 9%, the Dublin market in particular is experiencing exceptional levels of business and has seen a number of new developments in terms of restaurant openings and planned hotels in the last 12 months.

“In this light, prospects are excellent for CIT’s tourism and hospitality graduates,” said Mr Davern. “However, not all have chosen to enter the industry in Ireland directly from college, and many have opted to travel abroad for experience — some returning to build on their placement experience, and others who have decided to continue on with their studies and entered programmes such as master’s programmes in the area of marketing or human-resource management.

“And that is the essence of a tourism and hospitality graduate; they are much sought after due to their wide-spanning experience, their customer-service focus, and their ability to adapt to many industries.

The Department of Tourism & Hospitality in CIT has more than 700 students participating in a range of programmes. Some are part-time students who work in industry a few days a week or complete evening developmental courses to further their knowledge and skillset.

“While aware that industry has highlighted the need for new entrants, the department meets with the strict education criteria set down by national and international bodies and is producing a student who has a combination of practical and theoretical experience,” said Mr Davern.

“While we can never mirror exactly the workplace, our integration of work experience into every programme allows students to experience real-life jobs and decide which sector of the industry they want to enter on completion of their course — this decision is often dictated by the range of experiences and opportunities, which they have while out on work placement.”

Work prospects are excellent as graduates enter an industry which has returned to growth and with a constant demand for experienced, qualified staff.

They are following in the footsteps of graduates such as Liam Crotty, the recently appointed executive chef of the 451-bedroom Hyatt Regency Gurgaon, India; Derek McKnight, F&B director on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, which has 24 F&B outlets; and Christopher O Sullivan, manager of Fitzpatrick’s Hotel in New York.

However, students need to become a bit more strategic, advises Treasa Morgan, CIT’s acting careers officer.

“College is about having a healthy balance between study, part-time work, extra-curricular activities, and a social life. Each aspect of a student’s college life will add benefit to future employment as long as they invest their time wisely and engage effectively.

“The earlier you begin the career planning process, the more fruitful the opportunities will be for you. With that in mind, it’s never too early to think about your skills, employability, and career,” she says.

The key to developing employability skills and pursuing a sustainable career is information and effort. “We encourage our students to think about each aspect of their life while at third level. It is no longer enough to rely on your qualification to get you a job as employers want well-rounded student and graduate employees. Well-rounded means academically knowledgeable, involved in college life, seeking out work experience, partaking in extra-curricular activities, and understanding your skills,” she says.

“This may sound like employers have high expectations of you, but becoming a well-rounded student and subsequent graduate is achievable.”

The employment forecast for graduates of 2016 is extremely bright across a range of sectors. UCC Student Development and Employability hosted 146 employers on campus- recruitment visits and organised 54 employability events between September and November, including roadshows, presentations, and recruitment fairs focused on the finance, accounting, pharmaceutical, IT, and health sectors.


A host of spring graduate-recruitment events will follow this month, including an internship fair, postgraduate week, and careers in the creative sector. Several degree programmes have an integrated six-month placement, with no shortage of paid placements available.

“The demand for graduates with languages is growing. Most attractive and sought after are those graduates with a combination of languages and another discipline such as business and languages and IT and languages,” according to careers adviser Mary McCarthy.

“Nationally, the strong trajectory of growth is set to continue, creating a continued growing demand for skilled graduates particularly in ICT, science, engineering, business and finance, and health.”

The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (July 2015) provides an overview of employment trends at occupational level. The economic recovery means shortages are intensifying and gaps are also emerging in hospitality and construction.

IT sector jobs most in demand include software developers, cloud, databases/big data, testing, security, technical support, networking, and

infrastructure. The science and pharma sector is looking for graduates and roles in biochemistry, biotechnology, pharma co-vigilance, and product development.

There are huge opportunities available for students graduating in 2016, according to Judy Murphy, the careers adviser at the Career Development Centre, Institute of Technology Carlow.

“For the first time in a number of years, graduate recruitment is up 18%. The first step on this path is choosing a course that you will like, enjoy, and work hard at when you get to college. While the majority of students make good course choices, some decide on a course they may not have fully researched. It is so important to research the course, including the subjects taught on the course.”

In third-level education, it is important for students to make sure that they get involved and participate in college life to develop their employability and transferable skills, which can be achieved by joining clubs and societies, volunteering, and undertaking work experience.

“This helps to develop the student and round their skills to be ready for the world of work, which contributes positively to the CV. Understanding the development of these transferable skills helps students to get jobs when they leave college.”

THE BIG READ: How a strong jobs market is giving college graduates the chance to stay in Ireland

It is important that students do not pigeonhole themselves or employers, she advises. “More and more, employers are looking for graduates from all disciplines. For example, students completing science courses can work for accountancy consultancy firms and students do not often realise that most medium to large organisations have huge support functions and employ graduates into marketing, IT, and supply chain roles. One example is a sports student going to work in the sponsorship department in a financial services organisation,” she says.

While a number of law and accountancy students go to work in their chosen fields, there are also other career paths they can take using the transferable and critical thinking skills developed on their course. Being able to articulate these help the student to perform well at interview.

“The class of 2016 has already started applying for jobs and have already secured job offers on Ireland’s top-rated graduate programmes. Students start this process at different times during their final year depending on the industry they want to work in.

“For example, some will start at the beginning of September, others wait till after Christmas, and some decide to wait until after their finals before looking for a job, or others decide if they want to continue to study.”

One example of the growing graduate job opportunities is that 93% of IT Carlow’s 2014 graduates have secured work within six months of leaving the college — well above the national average.

“Skills are developed through students’ studies, team projects, participation in college activities, and volunteering,” says Ms Murphy.

“These key transferable skills include communication, team work, problem solving, self-management, and ensure the graduates are ready for the world of work.”

Students will have built networks throughout college and during any work experience in that time — a key network when looking for future job opportunities.

“Don’t forget that your first job could be a stepping stone to help you build your skills and confidence for the next opportunity. Sometimes we need to take a step back or sideways to go forward. Understanding the basics and how to behave in a professional way and get on with your co-workers is invaluable to any potential employer.”

Jessica Knoblauch

Degree/Qualification: International Languages (BA IML) Majoring in French and Spanish UCD

As I am currently on my Erasmus in France and still have one more year of my degree left after this, looking towards my future after college is a daunting thought. But as my degree is based on studying foreign languages, I think I am almost certain that I will be going abroad once I have graduated.

Jessica Knoblauch - ‘The tough question that seems to be on everyone’s mind is: Do we look for jobs in our field immediately or take some time after college to travel or save money?’. Pic: Don MacMonagle
Jessica Knoblauch - ‘The tough question that seems to be on everyone’s mind is: Do we look for jobs in our field immediately or take some time after college to travel or save money?’. Pic: Don MacMonagle

The tough question that seems to be on everyone’s mind is: Do we look for jobs in our field immediately, take some time after college to travel or save money, or do we look into going down the master’s route? With a degree in languages, there are going to be more job prospects abroad.

The majority of people studying languages are interested in translation and want to get into the EU. There are specific times during the year that you can apply to the EU, followed by a series of tests to be considered as an employee. Getting an internship after graduation would be the dream, but competition is fairly high.

Although there are opportunities in Ireland for language graduates, experience abroad is inevitably going to help prospects of being employed in Ireland. Money and financial security is always going to be a large factor when making a career choice, but finding a career you enjoy and can succeed in is of greater importance.

When beginning a new course in college, the most important thing is to be sure you like and have interest in it. In college, nobody is telling you to do your homework, so undoubtedly it is self-motivation that will get you over the finish line with the best degree possible.

John Noel Masterson

Degree/Qualification: Bachelor of Commerce (International Experience) NUI Galway

I have chosen to specialise in accountancy in my final year of the Bcomm at NUIG. In November, I went through the “milk round” process where students interested in a career in accounting interview for the top firms in Ireland.

As a result of this process I received an offer of a graduate place from a Big 4 firm commencing in October 2016. This summer I hope to travel to the USA for three months on a J1 visa.

John Noel Masterson: ‘I was very lucky in NUIG to have the chance to go on placement in industry and abroad to Hong Kong in third year.’ Pic: Declan Gilmore
John Noel Masterson: ‘I was very lucky in NUIG to have the chance to go on placement in industry and abroad to Hong Kong in third year.’ Pic: Declan Gilmore

I have a number of friends in the Bcomm who have had great success in getting job offers. I was very lucky in NUIG to have the chance to go on placement in industry and abroad to Hong Kong in third year. Studying at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology went above and beyond my expectations and was a great opportunity to make connections.

I think experiences like these really boosts your chance of getting a job after graduation and the year is a great talking point in interviews. I would put experience over money starting out. A lot of great jobs are not well paid but give you the chance to get great hands-on experience. Hopefully financial security will follow in time.

I think there should be more of a focus on gaining computer skills relevant to the workplace. There are so many jobs out there where you spend most of your time in front of a screen though you don’t get taught many of these skills during the degree.

It was only when I was on placement with Crowe Horwath in Dublin that I learned just how much you can do with Microsoft Excel and how crucial it was to be proficient in using it. I would strongly recommend students get involved in as many clubs and societies as possible and building a network of friends early.

It’s important to have a balance between college and social life. Attend as many lectures as you can — this pays off when exam time comes — and when you’re in lectures, try and take notes. It’s not always necessary now as the lecture slides are usually available before classes but it can be hard to stay focused for 50 minutes otherwise.

The jobs market for graduates has come a long way from what it was a few years ago. Many top companies in Ireland have graduate programmes taking in hundreds of graduates each from all disciplines.

Katie Matthews

Degree/Qualification: Law Plus (Law and Economics). University of Limerick

Going abroad to find work is always a serious possibility for students, but I don’t see myself emigrating. After graduation I plan on getting a training contract with one of the top five solicitors firms in Dublin, and practising law here in Ireland.

Albeit, this is the goal that each potential law student strives for, and at the risk of sounding like a proponent for the law degree here in the University of Limerick, the structure of the course includes a mandatory nine-month period of work placement in a law firm. This is what I’m hoping will give me the edge.

Katie Matthews, a law and economics student: ‘I don’t see myself emigrating. After graduation I plan on getting a training contract with one of the top five solicitors firms.’ Picture: Denis Minihane
Katie Matthews, a law and economics student: ‘I don’t see myself emigrating. After graduation I plan on getting a training contract with one of the top five solicitors firms.’ Picture: Denis Minihane

I think the improvement in the legal profession has been particularly palpable, and one of the most noticeable indicators from a student’s perspective being that, in the past two years, law firms are now contacting the student body Law Society attempting to arrange promotional seminars. This is compared to the students contacting the law firms, as had been the case in previous years.

Money will be an important consideration in making a career choice. I am fortunate in that my parents have generously paid for my education. I think the biggest incentive for me is repaying that altruism in kind.

There is also the added burden of working in Dublin, which is notorious for its high standard of living costs. In my head it’s pretty simple: There are five firms and I will try my hardest to be employed in one of them. Each firm advertises its application deadlines via social media, and that is a helpful reminder, but as far as checking out the potential jobs market, I’m pretty set on them.

I think the University of Limerick does very well with mandatory work experience integrating students into the workforce slowly and relatively painlessly. I would suggest that every college has such a system.

My advice to students? Say hello to everyone! It’s better to leave your comfort zone for four weeks than regret not doing so. There is nothing worse than being lonely in college. Everyone is in the same situation, and that is what is going to make friendships.

Robert Crowe

Degree: Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Product Design Innovation. College/Institution: Institute of Technology Carlow

As regards my after college plans, I am currently looking into the options that are available to me. At IT Carlow my options are a master’s in interaction design or a research master’s in DesignCORE, IT Carlow’s dedicated applied design research centre. I also intend to look on the job market to see what options are open to me and how I can best utilise the knowledge and skills I have gained throughout my four-year honours product design degree in IT Carlow.

Robert Crowe. Pic: Pat Moore
Robert Crowe. Pic: Pat Moore

I would consider working overseas to broaden my knowledge of the design sector internationally. However, my preference would be to get a job in Ireland. Jobs are available here, and former students have gone into areas such as the SME sector as junior designers; design consultancies; project managers; visual communication; and researchers.

I would have to say that the job market has improved over the past number of years. I am optimistic that by the time I complete my degree in June, there will be a number of jobs options available to me for my skills.

I do feel that financial security is an important aspect of one’s job choice. However, I believe you should also love the job you do and enjoy it. It is important you like what you choose to study and do for a living. In some ways that is more important than financial security.

The internet plays a significant role in checking for available jobs, and social networks such as Linked In and Grad Ireland make it easier to connect with people in the industry. However, word of mouth is so important and building your own network with people in your industry is essential. The support from career advisers is essential in helping the transition to work from college for career choices, CV, and interview prep. There are many resources available to students to ease this transition and I would encourage all students to utilise these resources. My advice to anybody beginning college this year would be to enjoy the experience and appreciate the skills you learn. Everything you learn in college will benefit you after you graduate.

Jack Cherry

Degree/Qualification: Bachelor of Commerce College/institution: University College Cork

After graduating I plan on going to the US on a one-year graduate visa to get experience in the management and marketing industry. After this I will return to Ireland, at which point I think I will go back and study a master’s in management. I would definitely consider working abroad for a number of years and emigrating is certainly a potential.

Jack Cherry. Pic: Nick Bradshaw
Jack Cherry. Pic: Nick Bradshaw

Coming from commerce there are many different industries available, and many commerce students enter the Big 4 accounting firms, where jobs seem to be increasing. For my particular area, retail management, there may be more opportunities overseas than here at home. Money has to be considered as part of any career choice, of course, but it is not the most important decision when making that choice for me. Personally, it is all about the work. If I am not doing a job I enjoy then I’m in the wrong job no matter how much I am been paid. I have to work in an area that I find interesting and keeps challenging me.

More experience in the job market would be a bonus. I was lucky enough that commerce in UCC has a six-month placement as part of the course. This gave me the opportunity to work in the accounting industry and helped me decide what worked best for me. Many courses don’t seem to offer placement, and it is an important part of your education to get this opportunity. New students should join as many clubs/societies as possible. The more you get involved in the college experience, the more enjoyable it will be for you.

Roseanne Phelan

Degree/Qualification: Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology Cork Institute of Technology

Emigration would be more of a choice for me than an absolute need. I am fortunate with my degree in that I am not desperately seeking the next boat or plane off the island.

I am just coming to the end of the first semester of a busy academic final degree year and I am keeping an open mind as to what I would like to do post-graduation. I would like to be able to gain experience across the board of pharmaceuticals and biotechnology as the sector is very broad.

Roseanne Phelan: ‘Keep on top of your academic study and stay organised. This is the primary reason as to why you are here after all.’ Pic: John Kelly
Roseanne Phelan: ‘Keep on top of your academic study and stay organised. This is the primary reason as to why you are here after all.’ Pic: John Kelly

With my degree, I am lucky in that I will have a number of options available to me — these include both academic and industry-related job options. I could further my academic career by carrying out a post-graduate degree, some of which are available at Cork Institute of Technology in the Centre for Research in Advanced Therapeutic Engineering building or further afield in another academic setting or research facility. That being said though, I would love to work overseas for a while.

I would like to see what other countries have to offer in the field of research and pharmaceutical science. Jobs are indeed very easy to find in science in Ireland. The jobs market in science is continuously growing and improving.

My degree, pharmaceutical biotechnology — is less than ten years old, so in the scheme of things it is a relatively new course. 2009 was the first year that students graduated with this degree. Since then, there have been over 180 graduates with an employment success rate of over 75%.

Graduates are currently employed in more than 40 scientific locations. For a small nation, Ireland is a leading country when it comes to pharmaceutical industries. Pharmaceutical products make up half of Irish export goods.

The south and east of Ireland is the hub of biopharmaceutical companies. I am even within a cycling distance of most of these companies in Cork. My degree was specifically designed with the biopharmaceutical industry in mind. Most companies in the country offer student placement positions and graduate programmes.

Money is important, but I am not going to seek a large salary if each day is one of misery. A good working environment, with like-minded, successful, achieving, and active people, getting along with my colleagues, a can-do positive attitude, and being happy are more important for me though.

To new students I would advise: Do what is right for you, not what others think you should do. When you get in the door at college hit the ground running. Don’t worry if you don’t know anyone, there will be many more in the same boat as you. Don’t give up when you hit the first hurdle. Pick yourself up and keep going. You will get there in the end.

Try not to stress yourself out too much. Get to know people, your housemates, neighbours, classmates. You are going to spend the next few years together. Don’t skip class, and as one my lecturers always quotes the words of Woody Allen, “Showing up is 80% of life”. Keep on top of your academic study and stay organised. This is the primary reason as to why you are here after all.

Carpe diem.


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