Date Uploaded: 06/05/2016
The graduates of 2016 face a more upbeat economic climate than their recent counterparts.
While things are certainly looking up, change comes slowly and graduate and employer optimism is still somewhat tempered with a realism hard- learned from the recession.
To succeed, graduates need to be agile, nimble, and quick to learn. This is in contrast to the halcyon days of 2008, when graduates surveyed expected to earn €100,000 by the time they were 30 and own a couple of buy-to-let properties.
While the picture has improved since the crash and greater opportunities are now available, graduates can still expect lengthy job searches, modest wages and greater competition for roles.
The Gradireland recruitment survey for 2014/15 found there was little movement in graduate wages, despite increased economic activity.
Some 22.8 per cent of graduates earned less than €24,000 in their first year of employment, with 14.8 per cent earning less than €22,000 (up from 12 per cent in the last survey).
The survey also found there was “a sizeable leap” in the number of companies predicting challenges in filling their graduate recruitment positions (up from one-third of respondents to one half).
While the days of Celtic Tiger excesses have passed and wages have yet to recover, there are positive signs on the horizon.
Compared to their predecessors, the current tranche of graduates need to be more agile, nimble and quick to learn, but for those who make the grade, the hard work pays off.
Last year, AIB announced it would relaunch its graduate recruitment programme, after it was shelved during the economic crash.
That is not to say that the opportunities are not there. Susan Kilty of PwC, which won Gradireland’s 2016 Graduate Employer of the Year award, says the company aims “to deliver the best possible experience for graduates and undergraduates allowing them to be the best they can be”. PwC will take on more than 250 graduates this year alone.
Sinéad Heneghan, chief executive of the Irish Institute of Training and Development, says the number of organisations offering programmes for graduates is rising year on year.
‘The range of innovative, comprehensive and impressive initiatives that are bring rolled out across organisations which are clearly aligned to the organisation’s identified needs, values, priorities, and competencies is constantly expanding,’’ she says.
Siobhán Scanlon, graduate programme officer at Musgrave, says its programme is all about experiential development from the very beginning.
“When we bring graduates into the programme it is for long-term careers within the Musgrave group. If we look at the organisation, we have Musgrave graduates at all levels and at management level,” she says.
“They are working in the business and have real responsibilities from the very beginning and playing key roles in the teams they are in. That is bolstered by formal development training that we run in conjunction with the Irish Management Institute.
“For us, it is about identifying the right people and bringing in what we need in Musgrave and for talent to grow in the business,” she adds.
Scanlon says the company takes applicants with a 2:1 honours degree from a number of disciplines, as graduates can learn on the job.
A 2:1 degree, however, is not the only criteria – Scanlan says applicants must show genuine interest and passion for the area.
“We look for people who are really passionate about what they do. Even if you’re not going to be working in the buying section, you need to have that interest in food,’’ she says.
Sinéad D’Arcy, Jameson International graduate programme manager, also agrees students need to have attributes beyond academic achievement to get noticed among the deluge of CVs they receive each year.
“Because it’s a marketing role, we look for people who are innovative, creative, outgoing and confident in how they deal with people because they are the face of our brand,’’ she says.
And because a lot of the work involves working in foreign markets, graduates need to be autonomous and self-directed.
“They get a lot of support here from us in Ireland and support on ground but they do need to be self- directed in the way they work.
“We’re very open to graduates who have achieved degrees at different levels, not just 2:1. What we’re looking to hire is people with potential – who want to work in the food and drinks industry and want to be marketers,’’ she says.
“They might have volunteered to raise money for charity [or] worked part-time in a bar or restaurant.”
Others might have had an internship in marketing, have travelled abroad or worked with people in different cultures, she says.
Paul Vance, head of resourcing at KMPG, says demand for its graduate programme has held steady and with the company growing, it is looking for more people.
“We are investing in more people to work in audit, tax, consulting and advisory. That means more positions for bright and ambitious graduates who want to become the business leaders of tomorrow,” he says.
“We’re looking for graduates with good communication, teamwork, leadership, problem-solving and attention to detail skills.”
Vance believes the motivation to join KPMG’s graduate programme is different for every person that is hired.
“We know that bright and ambitious graduates want a career that’s varied, challenging and rewarding and we offer this in abundance.
“Additionally, we offer an unrivalled training programme for graduates seeking to become chartered accountants, our client portfolio is second to none and there is access to travel within our international network.
“There is a great sports and social programme and an award-winning CSR [corporate social responsibility] programme involving our employees giving back to the community.
“In short, we have a high performing, people-oriented and work-life balanced culture,” adds Vance.
Journalist: Áine McMahon