Ireland’s graduates suffer a crisis of confidence about their career prospects

gradireland has been given exclusive access to the trendence European Graduate Barometer, a pan-European survey of over 343,000 students and graduates across 950 universities throughout Europe. This survey measures third-level students’ attitudes towards their career prospects on graduation, and this year’s survey highlights an alarming collapse in confidence amongst Ireland’s third-level students in comparison to their European counterparts.

Although Ireland was one of the earliest and hardest-hit countries to experience the effects of the financial crisis in Europe, career confidence amongst Ireland’s students remained on par with students across Europe during 2009, 2010 and 2011 (as tracked by the trendence ‘Optimism Index’). This can be seen in the graph below.

However the survey clearly shows the collapse in confidence in 2012, with Irish optimism sinking to its lowest recorded value while career confidence levels in the rest of Europe show a slight increase.

Further analysis of the Optimism Index reveals that students in Ireland expect to find it much harder to find a graduate job than other students in Europe, even in well-publicised growth sectors such as IT. Analysis of Irish students who want to work in IT and engineering-related sectors shows that they expect to have to make more than 35 applications, and spend 5.4 months on their job search, before finding a job. This compares to a European expectation of just 21 applications over a period of 4.2 months before successfully landing a graduate role.

Students looking to pursue a career in business, finance or the professions, traditionally the largest and most important sectors for graduate employment in Ireland, are even less confident. They expect to have to make 34 unsuccessful applications before they find a job, and expect to spend even longer on their job search (5.5 months). In this sector, comparison with student attitudes in the UK is important, as the UK is the largest emigration destination for Irish graduates – and the picture does not get any brighter. While prospects in mainland Europe look rosier, the outlook in the UK is gloomy: UK students looking for work in business, finance or the professions also expect to make 34 applications over 5.5 months before securing employment. UK pessimism in the largest sector for graduate jobs reinforces the collapse in confidence of Irish students, making the most popular career ‘Plan B’ less attractive and exacerbating feelings of pessimism.

gradireland will be embarking on a nationwide series of campus events during September and October to ensure that Ireland’s students are provided with the best possible career support, along with access to information about available graduate jobs and schemes. The gradireland Graduate Careers Fair on 10 October is also designed to help students find out more about how to boost their employability and maximise their chances of securing a graduate role.
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