I am writing to you on a number of issues pertaining to the job situation for new graduates which I feel should be brought to light.
I will graduate this June as a fully-qualified, dysphagia-competent SLT. Alas, due to an economic situation which is outside our control, job prospects are frighteningly scarce. This is extremely disappointing considering the dearth of services being provided to those who desperately need SLT. This was shown in the article printed on the Irish Examiner (May 14).
The Government have set up graduate volunteer schemes in associations such as the Brothers of Charity. Within these schemes, graduates are supervised, and are afforded the opportunity to develop their clinical skills and job-readiness. New graduates are required to work full-time for a year before they become “full members” of the Irish Association of Speech and Language Therapists (IASLT).
I think it is regrettable that graduates cannot count a year of volunteering as their requisite year of work experience before becoming a full member of the IASLT. This renders the experience worthless on the employment front, although graduates obviously gain clinical skills.
Secondly, for those who secure a job for a year, and become full members of the IASLT, the IASLT do not provide a letter of good standing immediately. This is the passport to employment in other countries under the Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA). Under this agreement, Full Members of the IASLT can work in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada or America. If there are no employment prospects in Ireland, surely it is an excellent opportunity for highly-educated members to work abroad. This can only result in a richer knowledge base for SLTs in Ireland in the future, who will have experienced different work structures and cultures.
Finally, it is unfair that graduate members of the IASLT are not covered by professional indemnity insurance that is offered to full members. If motivated young graduates want to provide a private, supervised service I think they deserve all the support they can garner. We are passionate about our chosen profession, we love helping people communicate with their loved ones, and we would adore the chance to improve the service to all people with communication needs in Ireland. If the HSE provided maternity cover, not to mind say new posts, graduates would gain valuable experience, and clients would receive a more prompt and thorough service.