'We moved Home to Work but where are all the promised jobs?'

All you hear about Ireland now when you’re living away is how much work there is - but jobs are not 'flying off the shelves'

Rachel Healy with her husband and their son Max. “Aside from applying for jobs in our sectors, we’ve looked everywhere else, right back to the places where we worked for the summer years ago”

Rachel Healy with her husband and their son Max. “Aside from applying for jobs in our sectors, we’ve looked everywhere else, right back to the places where we worked for the summer years ago”

 

After seven years in Vancouver my recent move back to Ireland with my husband came down to one question. Did we want our one-year-old son to be Irish or Canadian? The answer, for us anyway, was easy.

We wanted Max to grow up Irish, to know what “the craic” is first-hand, not as some foreign concept his nostalgic parents tried to instil in him when all he wanted to be was an “awesome” Canadian.

It sounds simplistic, but we’re lucky we had a choice to leave Vancouver, unlike some of our fellow Irish who have become so engrained in Canadian society that for them it would be almost impossible to leave.

Half our Irish friends in Vancouver may never come home. Some run successful businesses there, having been forced to leave Ireland during the recession when unemployment soared for tradespeople. Others have a non-Irish partner tying them to Canada.

For at least six years every time we called home our parents and friends would say things like “sure, there’s nothing for ye here, stay away while ye can” or “there’s no work, the weather’s miserable, the government sucks”.

But all that has changed in the last year. All you hear about Ireland now when you’re living away is how much work there is, like the jobs are flying off the shelves towards anyone who wants them. Unfortunately, since moving home we have found the opposite to be true.

My husband and I have honours degrees – I also have a masters – and we both have seven years’ experience with the same highly reputable company in Vancouver. None of that seems to matter. We’re able-bodied, enthusiastic, hard workers who have proved our competency over time, yet we can barely get a response from countless job applications.

We initially assumed there must be an issue with our CVs being too “Canadianised”, but several recruitment agencies have told us they’re perfect, we just don’t have the “right experience” for certain roles. But many of the jobs we have applied for match our previous job descriptions almost word for word so that can’t be the case.

We wondered if perhaps the fact that we’ve been away is working against us, when we assumed initially that our added “life experience” – as well as international work experience – would work in our favour.

We’re still wondering because we’re still unemployed. Aside from applying for jobs in our sectors, we’ve looked everywhere else, right back to the places where we worked for the summer years ago.

Get-togethers

We’re now the ones at family get-togethers who everyone gives advice to because they can’t understand why we’re finding it so hard.

“There are thousands of jobs,” they say incredulously, looking at us sideways as if we’re just sitting on our asses watching day-time TV all day. “Sure, they’ve all got their headquarters here, don’t they, it should be easy!”

We feel duped because all the government initiatives and marketing campaigns to attract emigrants like us home seem to appeal to the construction or tech sectors only, where there are plenty of jobs for skilled tradespeople.

We feel we can’t win. We were promised opportunities – which fed greatly into our decision to return home now – yet there’s a complete lack of support for those in our position once we get back here.

We’re now looking to reskill with the Department of Social Protection’s free Springboard courses, but there are limitations regarding eligibility.

We’re lucky in that we have somewhere to live at least given the exorbitant rents that keep on increasing in the capital. We can’t afford a car because of the huge rising cost of insurance, especially for people who have been living abroad for a few years.

Even if we did get entry-level work we wouldn’t be able to afford childcare. We have the support of family, but we can’t expect them to mind a “wobbler” full-time, and part-time incomes would not be enough for us to live on. What are we to do?

We’re happy to hear from people we know who came home before us and have managed to find work, but we know a lot of others who are in the same position as us.

Skills and experience

It feels wrong to complain because we know we’ll never go hungry with family around, or homeless, like too many others out there. But something has to be done to support people like us who move back to Ireland with skills and experience to offer, who don’t know where to turn to next.

Christmas was a nice distraction, reminding us why we came home in the first place. It has been a blessing seeing Max surrounded by his cousins, and his grandparents keep saying they’ve only now realised how much they would have missed in his development as he enters an exciting new phase every week.

We can’t regret our decision to come home from that perspective, but we were wrong to think we would slot back into Irish society easily.

It’s been incredibly trying at times, and we’ve certainly discussed what it would be like if we’d stayed in Vancouver, but we don’t regret our decision to come home.

The way we see it, it’s all about attitude; either you try to look on the bright side of things, even when you just want to pull your own hair out with all the bureaucracy and red tape, or you only focus on the negative and want to leave again. For us that’s not an option, so we have no choice but to make it work. That has made the hard parts easier for us.

We can finally put down roots now, and that’s a comforting thought.

In a follow-up article, Rachel Healy writes about the palaver of bringing a baby born abroad back to live in Ireland, and the differences in parenting approaches (especially to breastfeeding) between Ireland and Canada.

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