Ireland’s brightest students shine at National Student Challenge

National Student Challenge Winner Matthew Foyle

National Student Challenge Winner Matthew Foyle

Matthew Foyle from Griffith College Dublin was crowned National Student Challenge winner at the annual competition held by gradireland, writes Fergal Browne.

Bringing together over 50 of Ireland’s brightest students – who were the top performers in an online assessment specifically set to mirror the qualities employers are looking for – and some of Ireland’s top graduate recruiters like Lidl and PwC, the event was branded a success by both the competitors and the graduate recruiters.

“It’s been really stimulating. The most valuable part I’m going to take away from the day is a new way of thinking in stuff like supply chain management, and communicating,” said eventually winner Matthew Foyle who was the first National Student Challenge winner from Griffith College Dublin.

Matthew, who received a cheque for €1,000, highlighted that the event is also a brilliant networking opportunity. “The networking part is vital for me. I’m applying for a lot of graduate programme positions and this is an opportunity to talk to employers about what they are looking for and how to tailor my CV appropriately”, said the 2015 champion.

The event saw six employers – Lidl, the Public Appointments Service, PwC, EY, Bank of Ireland and AbbVie – challenge students in a range of tasks and competencies which were designed to be fun but demanding.

“We have been really impressed by the standard of students here. Some of them seemed to have the complete package; brains, personality and charisma. It’s great to see,” says Susan Murdock, Graduate Programme Manager at Bank of Ireland (BoI).

BoI set students the task of designing a mobile phone app in small groups. “We are looking for imagination and creativity because these are the qualities that we look for at Bank of Ireland”, says Susan. BoI is bringing on 80 students from across all disciplines for its graduate programme. “We are happy to consider anybody from any discipline. If they have creativity, there’s a place for them here”, adds Susan.

Major pharmaceutical firm AbbVie, which has manufacturing plants in Sligo and Cork, alongside offices in Dublin and internationally, set students the challenge of working in small teams to design and fly paper airplanes.

“What we were looking for is a good attitude”, says Angela Haran, AbbVie’s Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist. “We are very much a team-orientated environment, so a great attitude is a major part,” she adds.

The importance of a positive attitude was highlighted by Lidl too. “We are looking for three things; for students to enjoy themselves, contribute to the overall team effort and throw themselves into the task”, says Lidl’s Graduate Programme Manager, Russell Palfrey.

Lidl’s inventive task involved blindfolding four students while the other team members led the blindfolded students to certain parts of the room by directing them only by using whistles. “It’s directly linked to our business because we have trucks leaving our warehouses everyday to reach our stores,” adds Russell.

“The Lidl challenge was brilliant fun. It’s a great mix between doing something fun and serious team building,” says Stephen Brennan, a final year Engineering and Electronics student from TCD who took part in the event.

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