Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Denis Canty from STEPS to give some advice for people considering this job:


Denis Canty

Electronic Engineer


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  Denis Canty
It is challenging. But if you adopt the right attitude straight away it can be a lot easier. I would advise anyone to be a hard worker and maintain a positive attitude. Also be organised, right down to keeping notes. You start your career in college, not after it.

Enterprising people like situations that involve using resources for personal or corporate economic gain. Such people may have an opportunistic frame of mind, and like commerce, trade and making deals. Some are drawn to sales and marketing occupations. Many will eventually end up owning their own business, or managing a section in larger organisations. They tend to be very goal-oriented, and work best when focused on a target. Some have an entrepreneurial inclination.
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Key points for selected operatives and related occupations

  • In 2014, there were approximately 67,000 persons employed in operative occupations, representing 3.5% of Ireland’s workforce (Figure 9.16.1)
  • Two thirds of total employment of operatives (44,000 persons) was concentrated in manufacturing (mainly, food; machinery and equipment; pharmaceuticals; computer, electronic and optical products); the remainder was spread across several other economic sectors
  • Between 2009 and 2014, overall employment in the selected occupations expanded by 4.8% on average annually; the strongest pace of growth recorded among the 17 broad occupational groups examined, and well above the national average annual rate of 0.5%; employment grew for most occupations (excluding other process operatives and plant & machine operatives (each contracted by just over 4% on average annually) and chemical & related operatives (remained virtually static); the strongest employment growth rates were observed for food, drink & tobacco operatives (18.2% on average annually); assemblers (8.4% on average annually) and construction operatives (6.7% on average annually (Figure 9.16.2)
  • Over the five-year period, overall employment levels increased by 14,000; the largest employment increases (in absolute terms) were observed for food, drink & tobacco operatives (7,000) and routine operatives (4,500); the largest decrease was observed for plant & machine operatives (2,000)
  • Between 2013 and 2014, overall employment decreased by 6.6%, or almost 5,000; the largest decline was observed for routine operatives, a reversal in the trend observed since 2009
  • One quarter of employed construction operatives was aged 55 or older ─ double the national average share ─ and the most mature workforce among operative occupations (Figure 9.16.3)
  • The education profile of employed operatives was skewed towards lower educational attainment levels; just over half of employed construction operative had lower secondary or less qualifications; the corresponding share was one third for both other process operatives and plant & machine operatives; the share employed in each occupation who had attained higher secondary/FET qualifications exceeded the national average (Figure 9.16.4)
  • Half of construction operatives in employment were non-Irish nationals ─ one of the highest shares among occupations in the national workforce; the share was at or close to one fifth for those employed in most other operative occupations.

Shortage Indicators

While over 3,500 vacancies were advertised for operatives through the PES and portals alone in 2014, there were over 10,000 operatives (mostly process and construction) seeking employment through the PES in May 2015.

Many vacancies are arising due to turnover, with frequent changes of employers observed in 2014 for all types of operatives, including food, process and construction operatives.

Nonetheless, a shortage of CNC (computer numeric control) operatives has been identified, particularly in high technology manufacturing (e.g. medical devices and pharmaceuticals) and engineering.

Many unemployed operatives have been trained in traditional operative skills and are deficient in technical and digital competencies required for high technology automated manufacturing. In response to the shortage, a new course was introduced in the Sligo, Mayo Leitrim ETB in Spring 2014. Approximately 30 qualified CNC operatives are expected to emerge from this course.

The demand for operative skills is expected to remain strong in the medium term due to the expected strong performance of the high tech manufacturing sector. Although the continued automation of manufacturing processes will result in the further substitution of labour by capital equipment, this will benefit skilled operatives at the expense of unskilled labourers.

However, to avail of job opportunities, up-skilling of operatives will be necessary, as their roles become more knowledge and technology intensive and the distinction between technician and operative roles becomes less clear.


Labour Market Research 20

These links are to well established sources of information used to review, evaluate and predict changes in our labour market.

Future Skills Needs of the Biopharma Industry in Ireland August 2016 
This report reviews the supply of, and demand for, skills within the Biopharma Industry in Ireland up to 2020, with a specific focus on Biologics manufacturing as a growing sub-sector within the industry. It is estimated that 8,400 potential job openings
Assessing the Demand for Big Data and Analytics Skills 2013 - 2020 
May 2014 EGFSN report identifying measures to build up the Big Data and analytics talent pool in Ireland over the period up to 2020 in line with enterprise demand.
Regional Labour Markets Bulletin 2014 
Report prepared by the Skills and Labour Market
Research Unit in SOLAS aimed at providing an analysis of the key labour market indicators for each of Ireland’s eight administrative
regions: Border, Dublin, Mid-East, Midland, Mid-West, South-East, South-
Addressing the Demand for Skills in the Freight Transport, Distribution and Logistics Sector in Ireland 2015 – 2020 
February 2015 EGFSN report assessing the skills and competency requirements for the Freight Transport, Distribution and Logistics sector in Ireland up to 2020
Vacancy Overview 2014 - EFGSN 
The Vacancy Overview 2014 produced May 2015 by the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit in SOLAS on behalf of the EGFSN, draws on data from newly advertised job vacancies in the following sources: DSP Jobs Ireland and The analysis focuses
Monitoring Ireland's Skills Supply 
July 2015 report on those entering and leaving the Irish education system (primary, post-primary,further education and training, and higher education) spanning the ten levels of the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ)
Regional Labour Markets Bulletin 2015 
Annual report produced by the EGFSN which identifies variations in skills supply and demand across 8 regions (Border, Dublin, Mid East, Mid-West, Midland, South East, South West and West).
Assessment of Future Skills Requirements in the Hospitality Sector in Ireland 2015-2020 
Report from the EGFSN assessing the skills demand within the Hospitality sector in Ireland to 2020 to ensure the right supply of skills to help drive domestic hospitality sector business and employment growth.
Vacancy Overview 2015 - EGFSN May 2016 
A report produced by the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU) in SOLAS for the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs contextualising 2015 vacancy data with what is occurring in the Irish labour market
EGFSN - Report for HE Providers on Springboard 2014 / ICT Level 8 Conversion Programme 
February 2014 Report "Guidance for Higher Education providers on current and future skills needs of enterprise - Springboard 2014 / ICT Level 8 Conversion Programme"
Next Last

Current Labour Market Info 4

These sites provide news of current events that relate to our evolving labour market.

IBEC Quarterly Economic Trends 
Download publication in PDF format.
SCSI Employment Opportunities & Skills Requirements for Construction and Property Surveying 2014-18 
New report April 2014 from SCSI outlining the Employment Opportunities and Skills Requirements for Construction and Property Surveying projected from 2014-2018
Shortage of craft/entry level staff in the Hotel Sector 
Hotels and guesthouses are experiencing serious difficulties recruiting suitably qualified craft/entry level staff - IHF Annual Conference 24/2/14
National Skills Bulletin 2015 
The National Skills Bulletin 2015 provides an overview of the Irish labour market at occupational level, drawing on a variety of data sets, which have been systematically gathered in the National Skills Database (NSD) since 2003.

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