WITH the bewildering range of options, filling in the CAO application form can be a stressful experience. Increasingly, we receive requests from students who are unsure about what choices they should be making.
Given the national employment situation, it is not surprising that more students are taking future careers into account in making their CAO choices and preferences.
The nature of today's society, and the market in which our graduates have to compete, is changing rapidly, both in terms of its skills requirements and global dimension. So, preparing students for success in life (and especially in the work place) now means that, in addition to the disciplinary knowledge associated with a specific degree programme, we must equip them with a set of personal skills to enable them to navigate the challenges of a dynamic, globalised society and an increasingly knowledge-based workplace.
The rapidly changing nature of the world of work is characterised well by the European Commission Expert Group Report on "New Skills for New Jobs" which stated: "The old certainties are largely gone; many of the jobs in 2015 and most of the jobs in 2030 do not exist today and cannot be foreseen yet."
For example, the role played today by cloud computing and social media as major employment sectors could not have been envisaged a decade ago – the terminology for these sectors did not even exist!
So, in the 21st Century, the paradigm of a "job for life" or "lifetime employment" has to shift to that of "lifetime employability", with a particular focus on adaptability and generic skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving and innovation.
First and foremost, given the rate of change of society and the world of employment, it is important for students to realise that a third-level education is much more about teaching you how to think, analyse and respond rather than preparing you for a specific job.
So, what then is my advice?
• Follow your passion. You will do a lot better when you are pursuing something that interests you. Be led by your interests, not by the points associated with a given degree programme.
• Do your research and be informed. Check out what is involved in particular degree programmes that interest you and ensure that you will have the specific requirements.
• Speak to career advisers and individuals (family, friends and relatives) working in areas that interest you.
• Be aware of the major employment sectors, especially the growth areas (realising, of course, that these may change in time). Request advice from universities and other colleges.
• Use all your options. Choose your preferences 1 to 10 carefully and make sure to use up all those options.
You may end up getting offered option 5 or 6, for example, and that can be life-changing.
Prof. Brian MacCraith
President, Dublin City University