In advance of next week’s GRADchances Language Fair, Tanya Flanagan, of the recently established One Voice for Languages group, writes about the group’s aims –primarily the promotion of the knowledge of other languages as an essential skill in 21st century Ireland.
The One Voice for Languages (OVFL) Group is a unified voice for various language networks, associations and linguistics experts in Ireland. One of the aims of the group is to highlight the benefits of all aspects of language learning and teaching in a multilingual and multicultural context. OVFL, as an umbrella group, is representative of all levels of the education system and all its partners, including the arts community, foreign embassies and cultural institutes.
The Group was established to foster a greater awareness of the critical importance of language learning not only in terms of increasing employment possibilities and meeting industry needs, but also its broader value in the spheres of education.
One Voice for Languages – highlighting language needs across all sectors of society
Building on ample research evidence regarding the numerous benefits of language learning and as a response to repeated calls from high level industry leaders, employment specialists, advisory bodies and experienced linguists, the OVFL group intends to raise awareness at government level of the deficit in appropriate language skills. We will also aim to reinforce the important role the learning of languages can play in the improvement of literacy levels.
One Voice for Languages – highlighting the exciting potential of language learning for our young people, for Ireland’s economy and for Irish society
The last census indicates that there are over 160 languages spoken by the new citizens of this country, highlighting the tapestry of languages spoken in modern Ireland. Both in the contexts of social cohesion and resource potential, it is imperative that we harness this enormous linguistic wealth and foster awareness of the many benefits of learning languages and of acquiring additional communicative and intercultural skills. We hope to support the Irish Government in capitalising on the significant varied language and cultural backgrounds of the new Irish population and to equip our young people with the language skills they need to fully integrate and assume their role in the global marketplace.
The past number of years has seen an acknowledgement of the need to improve and support the teaching and learning of the science, mathematics and engineering fields. OVFL aim to begin the dialogue to ensure that language learning may now also be accorded the same priority and commitment which we believe to be of fundamental importance to the educational and economic future of this country.
One Voice for Languages – our first steps
The OVFL group was officially launched at a packed event hosted by the Schools of Languages and Education in Trinity College, Dublin on November 14th 2013. A very distinguished panel of speakers including Prof. Sarah Smyth and Dr. Lorna Carson, TCD, Prof. Finbarr Bradley, UCD Smurfit Graduate Business School, Tony Donohoe, Head of Education, Social & Innovation with IBEC and Barbara Nolan, Head of the European Commission in Ireland, warmly welcomed the establishment of the OVFL group. They spoke of the urgent action required to ensure that language learning is accorded the importance it merits in terms of industry, education, social cohesion and culture.
Since its official launch, OVFL has continued to attract media and online attention through its webpage and facebook campaign and it has initiated an action plan exploring a number of key areas including language policy, social media and research in the areas of language teaching and learning and language awareness. The group meets regularly and has met many interested agencies in recent weeks, including representatives from gradireland, AHECS and Quality & Qualifications Ireland, with whom valuable links have been established. Details of this ongoing work are published on the OVFL website – www.onevoiceforlanguages.com – please visit the site and join the Facebook campaign if you would like to add your voice!
Tanya Flanagan is PR Officer with the One Voice For Languages Group. She is a post-primary teacher of French, Italian and English at St Farnan’s post-primary school, Prosperous, Co.Kildare.
Jenny Flynn is the Communications and Membership Manager for Dublin-based not-for-profit organisation, European Movement Ireland (EM Ireland). As part of their work connecting Irish people with Europe, EM Ireland run the Grad Jobs in Europe campaign, giving Irish students and graduates advice and guidance on finding jobs and internships in the EU.
Applying for an internship in the EU can seem, at first, to be a hugely daunting prospect. Long application forms, varying eligibility requirements and a huge choice of internship positions can be so intimidating to the uninitiated that they give up at the first hurdle. At European Movement Ireland we know all too well what that is like and every day we chat to students and graduates who are struggling to pick their way through the EU internship maze. We also spend a lot of time talking to those who have done so successfully and who have reaped the professional and personal benefits that followed.
Getting an internship (or traineeship or stage, as they are known) in an EU Institution or Agency offers amazing work experience, networking opportunities, skills development and career prospects. It can open doors, boost your CV, help improve your languages, expose you to a multilingual, multicultural team environment and give you a continental social life! And in many cases, you’ll even be paid for the privilege! So how do you get one? Here at EM Ireland we tend to divide EU internships into 3 broad categories:
Institutional Internships – internships with an official EU Institution
Most people are aware that the European Commission (EC) and European Parliament (EP) run large traineeship programmes, but the other EU Institutions do too. Places like the Council of the EU, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), and the list goes on (with more acronyms than you could shake a stick at). The internship eligibility requirements vary slightly from institution to institution but generally speaking, you need to be a national of an EU country, with a third-level degree (in any discipline, not just politics or law or international relations which is often the perception people have) and knowledge of at least two EU languages to apply. That last point regarding language requirements is one that really puts people off applying but, again depending on the Institution you apply to, your mother tongue along with a decent Leaving Cert level of French or German (or any other official EU language) will often get you through. Learn more and apply online through the websites of the various institutions.
Agency Internships – Internships with a European Agency
The EU has 40 agencies spread out in cities across Europe. These agencies are separate from the institutions above and were set up to help the Institutions make and implement policies and manage EU programmes. The agencies work in a huge range of fields, from the Fundamental Rights Agency in Vienna, to the European Railway Agency in Valenciennes, to the European Medicines Agency in London, to the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions in Loughlinstown in Dublin. Regardless of your degree, you will certainly find an agency that specialises in an area of interest to you. The good news is that these agencies also run internship programmes. Eligibility requirements vary depending on the agency you apply to but often times the application process is lot less arduous than the institutional positions. The agencies can also offer more flexibility with start and finish dates than the institutions, where there are set intern intakes.
Non-Institutional Internships – Internships outside of EU Institution, Agencies and Bodies
Brussels is chock full of trade groups, lobbyists, law firms, PR firms, NGOs, multi-nationals, private companies, media outlets… there is something for everyone there and so many of these organisations offer internship opportunities. Start searching the net and draw up a list of the ten places in Brussels you would love to work or intern. Then see if these places offer internships. If not, there may still be no harm in sending in a prospective CV, outlining your availability for work. Do bear in mind though that you are likely to go unpaid for your work experience in many of these more informal positions.
- Be determined and diligent! Most of the Institutional internships will have online forms for you to fill in. These can be long and demanding so make sure to dot all the i’s and cross the t’s. With such large volumes of applicants, intern recruiters are looking for reasons to discard applications, so don’t give them one by being sloppy!
- Get organised early. Deadlines for Institutional internships fall well in advance of the internships themselves (for example, the deadline for the October 2014 Commission traineeship was the 31 January 2014) so start looking early.
- Throw your hat in the ring. Apply for lots of different internships to maximise your chances of being selected. But remember, if you spend longer than six weeks interning in any EU Institution, Delegation or Agency, you are then ineligible to do another EU internship.
Information about the eligibility requirements, application processes and deadlines for all the EU Institutional internship programmes, as well as the majority of the Agencies, are included in the EM Ireland Green Book – a guide for Irish students and graduates looking to intern, work and live in the EU. The Green Book also has a long list of non-institutional internship positions that might inspire your wish list.
Finally, as part of the Grad Jobs in Europe campaign, EM Ireland sends out a weekly update of jobs and internships in the EU. Even if you’re not looking for a position right now, it will give you a good idea of what’s out there, and it’s free to join-just email email@example.com with ‘Jobs and Internships in Europe’ as the subject line and we’ll add your name to the list.
gradireland recently attended a symposium organised by the HEA which addressed this question. Panellists included representatives from Altocloud, Fidelity Investments, the Irish Internet Association and Storm Technology. Here we report back on the findings.
What do recruiters look for?
I can already hear you groan! Employers ALWAYS say this, but WHAT DO THEY MEAN?!
When deciding which graduates to hire, the recruiters perspective is that ‘technical competency’ is demonstrated by your academic achievements and knowledge. Your success at University shows your ability to learn. That is all the employer needs when looking for graduate hires – their approach is that they will teach you what they need you to know for their business anyway, once you have been hired.
There are two sides to knowledge: one is gathering knowledge (learning); the other is applying it. Your application will be enough to show the recruiters your ability to learn; you need to show them that you can continue to learn; and that you can apply this learning. They will find this believable if you show passion. So passion in this context means genuine interest, a curiosity in ‘how things work’. They want you to show that you like taking things apart to find out how they work (and what you learned when you tried to put it back together again or to build an improved version). You need to show how you have applied your knowledge, through work placement, projects, entrepreneurial or charitable ventures, etc; that you are not afraid to get your hands dirty with code, and that you are not afraid to fail in order to learn.
Curiosity and interest
You don’t need to be a massive ‘techy’ to get into Tech companies – showing curiosity and interest can get you through the interview, then company training can provide any technical development required to get you up to speed. A good example is if you have an interest in art. The ability to visualise in the tech sector is really important, so if you are interested in applying your creativity in a practical way and can work in a multi-disciplinary team, you could build your career in tech.
All agreed that this is a must-have. Best way to demonstrate that you have the required skills? Take on a team project, and if possible work in multi-disciplinary teams so that you can prove you can work with non-technical colleagues (see also ‘Connectivity’ below).
Killer CVs and interview tips
The CVs from everyone in your class all look the same, trust me. Recruiters are crying out for you to stand out and make it easy for them to hire YOU. So how do you do it? Keep the boring stuff to a minimum, eg qualifications; you all have pretty similar ones! You have 2 pages (max) so don’t waste this space. Recruiters don’t want to see a long bullet point list of every topic you’ve covered in your undergraduate studies, they want to see the key elements that are relevant to their business and the job you’re applying for; they want to know about your Project (see below); and they want you to pithily demonstrate the passion and interest you have for their business and your career through your experiences.
At Careers Fairs, never just hand in your CV to a recruiter behind a stand and walk away. Talk to them, they are there to meet you! Make an impression, THEN hand them your CV. If you watch carefully at Careers Fairs, you will always see recruiters either marking a CV or putting some into a different pile to others. These are the CVs of individuals who have engaged with and impressed the recruiters, and these are often the ones who get called for interview.
The most important thing you’ll be asked about at interview will be your Project. You need to know your Project inside out, and be able to discuss the learnings you took from it. If you are an undergraduate and still thinking about what your Project could be on, then try to identify a ‘problem’ in industry/business that needs to be solved (eg a mechanical operation that could be made easier through a software application), then research it – this process gives huge value to employers and is gold-dust at interview.
The skills conversation always goes something like this:
Students: “yeah, ok, passion… yep; personalise my CV… got all that… but what do you actually want me to know when it comes to hard skills?? Just tell me, pleeeeeaase!”
Employers: “well, we want a mix of hard skills and soft skills, passion, communication…” [students stop listening].
We can report that, in terms of hard skills and knowledge areas for students and graduates seeking a technical role in Tech companies, it’s knowing about:
They also want language skills. If you want to work for the likes of Facebook, Realex or Google, languages allied to your academic qualifications are your golden ticket in.
Does that answer your question?!
Trends for the future
The ability to question data will be key, so get used to using data that is publicly available now. For example check out Dublinked, get in and start playing or hacking with free public access open data.
It’s a global world and you will be working within global teams at some point in your career. Understanding the scale of teams, having an understanding of the different roles within teams and where your role sits, is really important; as is showing that you have the empathy and communication skills to work with non-technical colleagues, eg marketing and sales. Business is always business, and showing awareness of commercial necessities is a real asset in the recruitment process.
Final tips from the top Tech recruiters…
- Demonstrate teamwork, show that you can learn and share.
- For technical roles, you have to show you can get down and dirty with code.
- Talk about where you’ve failed and what you learned. Especially in IT, many of those interviewing you will have learned more from failures and experimentation than from success.
- Show stickability. Talk about something you really struggled with, but stuck at and found a way to make it work. This will also demonstrate your passion and determination.
- Practice your interview skills. Prepare thoroughly, and know your Project inside out.
- Research the company interviewing you as widely as possible, including reading any press about them. Not knowing what your prospective employer is doing and what their goals are is a big no-no and it’s a question you will always be asked at interview.
- There are plenty of roles in tech companies for non-technical graduates from all disciplines, be open-minded and curious.