Una Halligan, Chair, Expert Group on Future Skills Needs shares her advice for students as the CAO 1st February application deadline approaches.
At this time of year many students are thinking about their career options and the courses of education or training that they should follow to pursue that career.
Choosing a career is an important decision in a young person’s life and so this can be a stressful time for students and for their parents alike. It is important, therefore, for students to inform themselves as much as possible about their options in order to make the best choices.
Parents can support and encourage their children to explore the many options available and to gather as much information as possible before reaching a final decision on which career or course to pursue. Even if CAO applications have been submitted, there is still an opportunity for applicants to change their courses up to 1st July.
Where will the jobs of the future be?
A key question for students deciding on a career direction is where the jobs might be in the future, and what course of study might be best to enhance their career prospects. The role of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) is to identify the current and emerging skills needs of the economy. The Group’s research provides information which can be useful in identifying where jobs are likely to arise and the types of skills needed for those jobs. This information can help students to make an informed choice about their career options.
All of the EGFSN’s reports are available on the skillsireland website. Short summaries are provided for all the reports. The good news is that as the economy recovers, almost all sectors are experiencing job growth.
Between now and 2020, the strongest employment growth is projected to occur in:
- Sales and Customer Services
- Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
- Business and
Some of the occupations where skills are required across these areas include:
- Architects and Surveyors
- Data Analysts
- Software Developers and
ICT skills required across sectors and occupations
There are, increasingly, overlaps in the skills required across different sectors and occupations. For example, ICT skills are required not just in the Software sector, but across a range of sectors such as Financial Services, Shared Services and Retail.
Foreign language skills
There is also a strong demand for individuals with foreign language skills, and marketing and sales skills across a range of sectors as companies drive to increase their exports of goods and services and to expand into new markets. The languages in particular demand are German, French, Spanish and Italian. Mandarin and Portuguese are also increasingly in demand.
In addition to a core expertise, it’s important to build a suite of generic skills to enhance employability. Feedback from companies is that they want individuals with the ability to work as part of flexible teams, be adaptable to change, think creatively and have the ability to problem-solve.
People-skills such as communication and team-working have become increasingly important to employers. Project work in college, work experience and extra-curricular activities can help to develop these skills.
When it comes to choosing an area of study, a wide range of courses exist, across many education and training providers. The Central Applications Office (CAO) system provides access to Third Level options in Universities and Institutes of Technology across the country.
Further Education colleges also offer a wide range of learning opportunities with good progression routes. Both Higher Education and Further Education courses are equally valid areas of study, depending on the career you wish to pursue.
Qualifax and CareersPortal are two websites which provide a range of useful information such as course listings, job profiles and career exploration tools.
CareersPortal contains separate areas providing dedicated information and advice to students, parents, guidance professionals, job seekers and adult learners.
The site includes video interviews with people employed across a range of occupations explaining what their job entails, and giving advice to others considering a similar career. This can be particularly helpful in understanding what is involved in working in traditional sectors such as Healthcare or Manufacturing, or newer sectors such as BioPharma or Space Science & Technology.
In order to gain skills which will increase their employability, students should actively seek work placement opportunities while at Higher Education and Further Education level, even if it is not offered as part of their course. Work placements are seen by employers as an effective means of giving students practical experience which complements their academic studies and helps understanding of the workplace environment.
While an awareness of where job opportunities will occur in the future is beneficial, the most important thing for students is that they pursue courses of study in areas they are interested in and have an aptitude for.
My advice to students is to identify what you like to do and where your strengths lie, research future job opportunities, and determine the skills and qualifications needed for the particular job in question. This process will help to determine the right choice for you.
Article by Una Halligan, EGFSN. Featured in the Sunday Business Post, 24th January 2016
The CareersPortal Team