Conversion courses: facts, figures and funding

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 and

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

Skills mismatch highlighted once more as jobs news worsens

lab workThe 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
  • Biologists
  • Medical scientists
  • Nutritionists
  • 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)
  • Web developers (PHP, JavaScript, XML, HTML, Flex, ColdFusion)
  • 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

Big brother is watching you. Yes, you, Mr ThunderThighs

'private' sign

How private is your data?

OK, we all do it. Spend hours on Facebook and other social media sites. Hours that could be spent doing more useful things like mastering tap dancing or basic Samoan. And it’s pretty inevitable, given the patterns of student life, that some of these hours involve Facebook usage of a somewhat unguarded nature. It’s amazing what pictures some people will post after a night on the beer. Fair enough. You’re only young once.

But equally true is the fact that you’ll need to earn a living too and part of the long journey towards jobhood involves your future employer deciding if you’re a good candidate for their organisation. So put yourself in their position. Wouldn’t you be tempted to run a search on Facebook for you, just in case? Human nature being a constant, many do – however unfair you think this is.

A recent survey by Microsoft of 5,000 people in five countries, including Ireland, found that only about half had thought about the implications of their digital profile on their futures. And only 15 per cent of the Irish respondents felt that they had full control of their online profile. This makes sense because your profile is constructed both by what you say and what others say about you. And the resulting rich mix of data can hang around as long as spent uranium but, unlike nuclear waste, is the precise opposite of being buried deep underground.

There are practical ways you can manage your profile though:

  • conducting a regular ‘Reputation Report’ by putting your name into search engines
  • separating your personal and professional profiles
  • adjusting your privacy settings and
  • thinking hard about what to share and with whom.

But not all employers will gate-crash your personal life. For example, KPMG has announced (on its ‘KPMG Careers Ireland’ Facebook page) that it will not view personal profiles on Facebook and it will not assess candidates or make recruitment decisions based upon online representations on Facebook.

I think this is a positive move but, until this behaviour becomes the norm, think carefully about the impression you give potential employers on Facebook. And that goes for you too, Ms Fluffy Bunny.

See the results of the Microsoft survey.