Friday 18 October 2019

Katherine Donnelly: 'Students graduating into healthy economy but challenges lie ahead'


Time to celebrate: Jobs are easier to find for new graduates. Stock Image
Time to celebrate: Jobs are easier to find for new graduates. Stock Image
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

The ease with which graduates walk straight into a job, and one for which they have been educated, is a key barometer of national fortunes.

The overriding message from today's report is of a healthy economy, one that is matching growing numbers of third-level students with jobs that require ever higher levels of skills and knowledge. It is a win-win, both for the graduates and the country.

Overall, 78pc of graduates were working nine months after leaving college in 2017 and 90pc of them in Ireland.

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While figures in this report are not directly comparable with previous surveys, there is a stark contrast with the years of recession, after 2008, when graduates left the country in their droves in search of work.

Data from the class of 2013, the year that emigration peaked, tell a much different story: 51pc of honours degree university graduates were working nine months later and only 39pc were in Ireland.

It is worth noting the improved employment rates have also come during a period of expansion of higher education in Ireland: undergraduate graduate numbers have increased 7pc since 2013 and post-graduate graduate numbers are up 14pc in the same period.

In other words, jobs have been created at a fast enough rate to accommodate graduate growth: in 2017, employment in Ireland increased by 61,900.

But with school-leaver numbers on the rise, higher education institutions can expect a knock-on in student numbers, which means that employment must continue to grow if they are to have a choice of decent employment at home when they graduate.

The survey confirms Irish students are happy to continue studying to meet the demands of the market. In March 2018, an impressive 22pc of university honours degree graduates from the class of 2017 were pursuing post-graduate studies.

But there are causes for concern. There is a huge need for graduates with computing skills, which will continue, but not enough school-leavers are applying for those courses and among those who do drop-out rates are very high. Brexit is casting a dark shadow; it is impossible to predict what impact it will have on those graduating this year or in years to come.

Memories remain raw of how families were wrenched apart by forced graduate emigration in the past decade. One challenge for the Government is to keep those jobs flowing and another is to ensure the education system equips students with a flexibility and creativity to allow them to navigate any tricky waters ahead.

Irish Independent

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