One of the busiest talks at the postgradireland Further Study Fair this week was on conversion courses. It was interesting, but not entirely surprising, to hear that conversion courses are more in demand than ever with graduates keen to maximise their employability and gain competitive advantage in the job market.
According to Caroline Kennedy, Careers Adviser at NCI who gave a seminar on the subject, business, arts and humanities subjects (such as HR and marketing) and computer courses are extremely popular areas for conversion. And with accountancy dominating a whopping 40 per cent of today’s graduate jobs (and banking pulling in 17 per cent), these are also key conversion-course hotspots.
The most popular conversion courses are in education, says Caroline: you can convert from most degree disciplines to primary, post-primary teaching or guidance counselling. Applications from graduates in most degree subjects are also welcomed onto law conversion courses. However this isn’t the case for all areas – to convert to engineering you need to have a first degree in a science or science-related degree.
There are, of course, huge opportunities in IT, and you don’t have to have a techie background to land a place on an IT conversion course. 55 per cent of high-level IT jobs are filled by inward migration – meaning, in other words, that staff are recruited from overseas to fill these positions in Ireland – and there have been hundreds of job announcements so far this year. The government is crying out for graduates to convert to IT and to this end are funding several programmes in the hope of attracting more students. The Graduate Skills Conversion Programme has capped the fees for ICT conversion courses at €2,750, and has waived them entirely for over 750 of them. For a list of programmes funded under the Graduate Skills Conversion Programme visit www.hea.ie/en and www.bluebrick.ie/ictskills.
The government’s drastic funding cuts mean that it’s absolutely vital that you know how you will fund your conversion course. On average, they cost between €2,500 and €10,000, so ask yourself: will the course improve my employability? Will it give me value for money? If the answer’s yes, then with luck this investment will reap you rewards in the long run. We are keeping a close eye on the postgraduate funding situation in Ireland and all latest information can be found at postgradireland.com/funding.
The Irish Examiner reported last week that finding a job in Ireland is more difficult than in almost any other eurozone country, and that the prognosis is not good, with Ireland named as one of only five countries where the work situation was expected to worsen.
The figures are from a European Commission initiative designed to monitor the demand for labour rather than just track unemployment. It is hoped that this will offer a new perspective to help policymakers on labour, education and training issues.
Figures showed the number of vacancies in Ireland from April to June last year was about 6,000, while the number of unemployed was about 300,000.
The important news from a graduate perspective is that once again the skills mismatch is highlighted. Across Europe there are a sizeable number of vacancies for professionals and managers – and the demand for employees with computer science and other technical IT and engineering skills is already well-documented – but the majority of people looking for work have low skillsets. Suitable jobs for these people are in short supply: new jobs in the construction industry, for example, have more or less disappeared.
Although this report does not distinguish graduates within the unemployed numbers, what it does show is that there has been an explosion in youth unemployment, accounting for 25 per cent of the total on average in the EU, and higher in some cases, eg over 51 per cent in Spain. So while employers and the economy are depending on young people to bring high-tech skills to the table, the reality is that the demand for those skills outweighs the supply. And, without these skills, many of our young people are facing only the prospect of short-term, temporary and poorly paid roles.
How can Irish graduates seek to prosper in this jobs market? One way is to consider retraining to meet the demands of the labour market.
The National Skills Bulletin published by FÁS provides an overview of current and anticipated skills shortages in Ireland. The list below provides a summary of some of the areas of shortage mentioned in the 2011 report that you may consider targeting for a potential career change.
- Product development chemists
- Medical scientists
- Laboratory analysts at technician level.
- Chemical (process safety)
- Design and development (pharmaceuticals, medical devices, food)
- Electrical (power generation, high voltage)
- Electronic (printed circuit board microchip)
- Planning and quality control (standards compliance, validation)
- Mechanical (renewable energy)
- Production (process automation and Six Sigma).
- Senior software applications developers (Java, C++, C#, VB, Ruby, Perl, Python)
- Network and security experts (.net, SharePoint, encryption, cloud computing, virtualisation – VMware)
- System administrators (Oracle, J2EE, SQL Server)
- Business analysts IT project managers.
- Risk analysis
- Management and cost accounting
- Compliance and regulatory standards – domestic, EU (eg MiFID, Solvency II)
- Global (eg Basel II) and financial analysis
- Financial experts with proficiency in financial software packages (eg SUMMIT and SAP).
Sales and Marketing
- Experienced marketing managers
- Technical sales representatives with specific industry, product and market knowledge
- Multilingual telesales (particularly with German and Nordic languages).
Transport & Logistics
- Multilingual international supply chain managers with forecasting, planning and scheduling skills.
Lastly it is worth researching conversion courses – the only Irish website with a bespoke conversion course search is postgradireland.com.