Employers increasingly view work placements as part of the graduate recruitment process

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A recent conference in UCD, hosted by the Association of Higher Education Careers Services, AHECS, explored the whole area of work placement and how the process can be refined to offer more value to students and companies. Entitled ‘Positive Impact of Work Placement: Enhancing Employability in Challenging Times,’ the aim was to promote and refine the concept of work placement as an essential tool for building graduate careers. Research presented at the conference showed that employers are increasingly viewing the work placement process as part of their recruitment processes. 

Speaking at the start of the conference, Seamus McEvoy, chair of AHECS and Head of Career Services at UCC said that the Association has established a working group in this area to “develop best practice policy and guidelines for work placement learning, produce relevant research publications and create a forum for the sharing of expertise and experience amongst Work Placement practitioners.”

The keynote speaker on the day was Ms Una Halligan, Chair of the Expert Group for Future Skills Needs (EGFSN). She hosted a presentation based on research carried out by the Expert Group, entitled Future Fit: Role of Work Placement in Preparing Students for Employability & the World of Work. 

The Group have carried out a number of studies on the impact and effectiveness of work placement schemes in different industry sectors. The overriding theme of the responses from companies in these sectors is that work placement is increasingly vital for graduates. In the bio-pharma sector, companies  “emphasised the importance of student work placements and consider them to be very valuable, giving students practical experience of the industry.” In addition, according to the report, they see a “considerable difference between graduates who have had a work placement as part of their studies, and those who have not,” and it is the experience of companies that ‘graduates from programmes with work placements hit the ground running.”  The issue though is that the report also found that large numbers of students taking biopharma-pharmachem related courses do not have access to placements. For those unable to secure a placement the EGFSN recommended that students use visiting lecturers or networking with industry professionals to attain some of the knowledge and skills that work placements can provide. Companies surveyed also said that placements should be ideally between 6-9 months as it takes between 8 and12 weeks, in their experience, for students to familiarise themselves with the positions.

The theme of the growing necessity of work placements was carried through to the Financial Services companies surveyed by the EGFSN, mirrored by a similar lack of placement opportunities. This lack of opportunities was, according to companies, having an impact on the effectiveness of graduates during the recruitment process. The report says that financial companies found a lack of “industry readiness” in graduates. But the exceptions to this were colleges who included work placement programmes as part of their curriculum. According to the EGFSN; “this practice was viewed very favourably by industry with several respondents stating that quality work experience made these undergraduates instantly more employable and often placed them on a par with students who had pursued postgraduate level studies. The report emphasises the benefits of the “practical application of their education in a live work setting, and as graduates, that they can adapt and contribute immediately as they encounter less of a learning curve in entering the work environment.” In terms of manufacturing,  employers emphasised the importance of graduates being reasonably ready for work, both in terms of being able to apply what they have learned, and in terms of the course content reflecting the workplace as it is now. The presentation from Ms Halligan also highlighted that “employers indicated that they see work placements as forming a major part of their recruitment process.”

The presentation also touched on the skills levels in the ICT sector, with surveyed firms saying that they “are generally happy with the graduates they see,” and “were keen to endorse work placements as a mechanism to smooth the transition from college into the workplace.”

Ms Halligan also spoke on the under-usage of the Erasmus programme and the whole issue of the shortage of language skills as a result. We’ll discuss this whole area in a future article.

Check out http://gradireland.com/work-experience for advice on work placements and internships.


Forget the corporation tax debate; our graduates should take full advantage of multinational opportunities

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In a week where the whole issue of tax being paid overseas was thrown into the limelight with the comments by Minister for Social Welfare Joan Burton regarding U2 having their tax affairs handled in the Netherlands, a UK Parliamentary Committee has also summoned Google to appear before it to explain why it has paid virtually no tax there despite accumulating €13 billion in revenue over the past six years. It turns out it’s paying its taxes here due to its European HQ being based in Dublin.  With Ireland’s low corporate tax rate renowned, revered, and in places envied, across Europe, we are well used to the continuing debate over how much tax global corporations with major European operations pay here.

The facts are that resident multinationals here represent a virtual roll-call of the rich and famous of the technology, pharmaceutical and finance sectors; including Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, eBay, PayPal, Abbott, GlaxoSmithKline, Accenture, KPMG, JP Morgan. In yesterday’s edition of the Sunday Business Post, Adrian Weckler wrote a comment piece stating essentially that it’s high time that Ireland stopped feeling guilty about our privileged position as a global hub in these fields and realise that these companies are “national, strategic assets in Ireland, as important to Dublin (and other Irish cities) as agriculture and tourism are to rural counties.”

For graduates, this landscape multinationals on our doorstep represents considerable opportunity. For overseas companies, the groundwork for them moving to Ireland, in addition to the obvious tax based incentives, is often laid by hard-working overseas trade delegations and IDA lobbying which focuses heavily on the quality of the workforce. Fidelity Investments International are currently seeking 50 more employees to add to the 250 they have nationwide and, also speaking to the Sunday Business Post yesterday, its President, Travis Carpico made comments which can only be interpreted as positive for both jobseekers and graduate jobseekers. “We came to Ireland in 1996. It was our first foray into accessing non-US talent. The things that you hear from the IDA are actually true. You have a highly educated workforce, a great work ethic and mesh well culturally with US multinationals and the way they like to go after things. Obviously there have been a lot of changes in Ireland over the past 17 years but the fundamentals of Ireland in terms of education, infrastructure and the business environment and the level of talent haven’t changed.”

The ten biggest high-tech firms are openly seeking to fill over 600 positions, pharmaceutical multinationals have over 110 positions available and the financial giants such as Deloitte and BNY Mellon and others have over 300 positions available. While many of these positions are for experienced professionals, most of those recruiting also offer graduate programmes which provide a wealth of real-world experience, great training and long term job opportunities. The average salary for graduates is between €24,000 to €26,000 but the number of graduates being taken on with salaries over €34,000 has increased by over 6% between 2011 and 2012. With a fragile economic recovery still in its early stages and an unemployment rate that is still unacceptably high, firms that provide employment, opportunity and considerable boosts for local businesses by their very presence need to be embraced and their opportunities exploited by the highly skilled graduates and jobseekers that our universities produce. As Adrian Weckler said in his column yesterday “there are times when national interest competes with -and overrides- solidarity with EU members, even when they get into a scrape over tax avoidance. So Britain’s MP’s and its media may be ticked off with Google. But that’s not our problem.”

To search for graduate jobs and for more on graduate recruitment and the application process, visit www.gradireland.com


Do you love the Irish language? Download gradireland’s new online guide

Your Career With Irish

If you can answer YES to the above question, you will definitely want to check out the revised  online edition of Do Ghairm le Gaeilge, now available on gradireland.com in both English and Irish versions. Catherine Lyster of Letterkenny Institute of Technology explains how the guide can help you discover the vast array of opportunities to use Irish in your career.

Perhaps you are a recent graduate or about to graduate in the Irish language or you may have a great passion for using the Irish language in your chosen career area but do not have Irish in your degree.  Fear not! Do Ghairm le Gaeilge  provides  a comprehensive overview of the range of career options where competence in written and spoken Irish is a decided  advantage. You will discover, for example, that opportunities to use Irish in your career are not confined  to Gaeltacht areas and that the burgeoning development of new technologies have spawned  career opportunities to use Irish that would have been unheard of 5 years ago, such as apps developer and opportunities in online media.

Do Ghairm le Gaeilge is thoroughly researched and presented in an attractive, user friendly manner. Section One gives an outline of interesting facts regarding usage of Irish . Did you know, for example, that  job opportunities exist for bilingual researchers, producers, journalists, IT and other technical experts in the areas of broadcast media? Or that barristers with Irish make up a significant proportion of the Bar Council with more than 155 registered as having fluent or a working knowledge of Irish? This section also contains valuable hints and tips on how to incorporate use of Irish into your daily working life.

The subsequent chapters outline opportunities in sectors  where competence in Irish is a distinct advantage such as Media, Translating and Interpreting, Private Sector opportunities, Culture , Arts and Language, and, of course, the Public Sector. Each chapter is concise and thoroughly researched.  In the case of media, for example, the reader will gain a comprehensive overview of careers where Irish is welcome such as print, broadcast and social media. Each chapter is peppered with case studies, job and internship  hunting tips, sample CV’s, facts and an extensive list of web resources. There is a special chapter on postgraduate studies which will be of interest to anyone seeking information on postgraduate courses in any of the above career areas

With Do Ghairm le Gaeilge, you will be well informed on the range of exciting career opportunities  in which you can use Irish and will be provided with  lists of valuable contacts and resources. Do Ghairm le Gaeilge is the essential companion for anyone looking for a career using Irish or to pursue postgraduate studies in the Irish Language sector.