The truth about the graduate jobs market

One of the fallacies of the recent economic disaster is that there are no longer any jobs out there for Irish graduates. No jobs, no economy, no future – renew your passport, pack your bags and pick your emigrant nation of choice.

This simply is not true. Graduates are still in demand. It’s true that the overall number of jobs and places on graduate schemes has fallen. But there are still roles for recent graduates, and certain employers are struggling to fill their graduate roles with the quality of candidate they are seeking. Why is this? And why is this not being widely reported?

Let’s deal with the second question first. The media have a job to do and a story to tell, and no-one can blame the Irish media for ploughing their furrow of misery and sticking to it – there’s been plenty to keep them going. Emigration, unemployment, rising taxes… Reporting that employers are having problems filling graduate roles does not sit well in the context of these issues. But, in a few instances, this is the case.

Many will be surprised to hear this, but the number of graduate jobs listed on has consistently been considerably higher over the last few months than the preceding 12 months – an average of 152 jobs each day in November 2010 against 119 in November 2009; an average of 174 jobs each day in December 2010 against 94 in December 2009; and for January 2011, an average of 142 jobs each day against 86 in January 2010.

Some of these opportunities are internships – approximately 20 per cent on average – and some are opportunities outside Ireland, mainly in the UK (about 5 per cent). But our experience in working with students and employers is that there is a gap between the reality of the graduate job market, and students’ perceptions of career opportunities in Ireland. Certain sectors are thriving, including IT, professional services and accountancy. Around 20 per cent of jobs advertised on require IT qualifications (though may not be jobs in IT); and engineering and financial management qualifications remain sought after.

Do not misunderstand – times for the class of 2010/2011 are tough, and will remain so. But hopefully this will redress the perception balance slightly, and give hope to those of you still looking to build a career in Ireland.

Volunteering overseas on a shoestring

South American schoolchildrenAs the academic year approaches its half-way point, final year students will be thinking about life after college; for many this will involve some overseas travel. Voluntary work overseas has long been popular with gap year students and graduates keen to immerse themselves in and support other cultures. Not surprisingly it is big business for travel companies.

Gap year organisations offer virtually every kind of voluntary experience you can imagine – from teaching, conservation or adventure trips, to work experience, community and care projects. Many people find it reassuring to book placements and programmes through large companies that can offer 24-hour support to the young traveller, but many others are put off by the big price tags that often accompany such projects.

If you are keen to do some voluntary work as part of a gap-year trip but balk at the costs, then don’t despair – for confident and sensible would-be-volunteers then there are plenty of opportunities that won’t break the bank. If you shop around (don’t just sign up with the first organisation you come across on the internet) you can find huge variations in price for all manner of volunteer activities. Websites such as Volunteer South America list free or low-cost volunteer opportunities for independent travellers in Central and South America that bypass agency fees completely (True Travellers Society and offer the same for those looking to volunteer in other regions, including Asia or Africa).

And if you are happy to organise things as you go along, then this is by far the cheapest way to do it; by waiting until you are already in the country you’d like to volunteer in before officially signing up to a project, then you immediately cut out a great deal of the cost. Some institutions, such as NUI Galway, offer advice on selecting voluntary placements, both at home and overseas, via their own dedicated websites, which can be a great way to start your research.

Introducing the gradireland blog logo
gradireland has been writing news, advice and comment on graduate recruitment in Ireland for 20 years, and the graduate recruitment market has changed considerably during that time. The last few years in particular have changed the landscape completely. This blog is one way for us to keep pace with the level of change, and to bring together other voices to join us in analysing and documenting those changes.

Our aim is to make the gradireland blog the place for news and comment on graduate recruitment – whether it’s topical careers advice for students and graduates, a discussion on recruitment trends with graduate employers, or labour market information for careers advisers.

As part of the graduate recruitment community in Ireland and Northern Ireland, we want this blog to be the place where we can all share ideas and information. Whether you are a student or graduate looking for your first job, a careers adviser or a graduate recruiter, we would love to hear your views, experiences and questions.

We’ll be posting on a range of subjects in the weeks to come, so please revisit and join the conversation.