School’s out forever. So what’s next?
You’re 18. You got your Leaving Cert results on Wednesday. Welcome to the rest of your potentially 120-year-long life
Campbell says if she were a “savvy 18-year-old looking at booming industries in the near future”, the ones that stick out are “pharma, biotechnology, life science and IT. I think the important thing is trying to gain skills that are transferable.
“And a big area becoming more and more important is data analytics. It’s already become popular, obviously, but it’s going to explode, so that [will suit] graduates with third-level degrees in maths, statistics, quantitative analysis. Everyone has mountains of data, but the smart people getting into that area are about putting that data to use.”
While the languages necessary for interacting with the growing economies of India, China and Brazil get a lot of press, Ireland still has a shortfall in European-language skills. Dorothy Kenny is a senior lecturer at Dublin City University (DCU), and the head of its school of applied languages and intercultural studies.
“People are fixated on emerging economies, and there certainly is a role there, because if we’re trading more with China and Brazil we will need people speaking those languages, and there are more people learning Mandarin now,” Kenny says. “But you still need to talk to your neighbours – the French and the Germans. If you look at what business wants, business struggles to find Irish people who can speak French, or the ‘Figs’: French, Italian, German and Spanish. So the very local languages in Europe are languages where businesses have a huge requirement.”
Currently, just 2-3 per cent of higher-level students in Ireland major in a language. “A lot of students we have who do Chinese combine it with business,” Kenny says, “and they really see it as the future. That’s interesting, but I say, ‘Well, if you just learned German as well you’d be doing yourself as many favours.’ ”
The changing landscape of exchange programmes will also continue to have an impact on the future language skills of today’s 18-year-olds, Kenny says. “During the 1980s we really started to get involved with Erasmus exchanges. In almost 30 years it has become more and more difficult to go away and become immersed, because they’re at universities interacting in English. The immersion experience needs much more management than it used to.”
Caring for their parents
Eamon Timmins of Age Action, a charity for older people, says, “There are big changes coming down the tracks, and they will affect the current crop of 18-year-olds.
“At the moment we have 12 per cent of our population over 65. By 2060 that will increase to 25 per cent, and by then those 18-year-olds won’t be far off being older people themselves.”
The way children care for their parents will also change. Falling family sizes mean potential care will be shared between fewer children. “We’ve seen huge changes in the past 20 years,” Timmins says. “Twenty, 30 years ago, people would support their parents in a different way, but society has changed, and people aren’t living beside their families in many cases any more, so we have seen a huge growth in private care, and the private sector will be a growth area in the coming years.”
Timmins identifies care assisted by technology as another growth area. “The fact is we’re going to live healthier and longer, so we may not have the same level of dependency the current generation of older people have.”
The class of 2013 will also work well into their 60s, if not beyond. On January 1st the transition pension will be abolished, meaning there will be no bridging pension between the age of 65 and the State pension, at 66. In 2121 the pension age will be moved from 66 to 67, and in 2028 to 68.
Timmins says the future of ageing and care will be in the hands of these school-leavers. “Eighteen-year-olds have huge opportunities to shape the agenda, from a work point of view, from a research point of view, challenges in caring, and the question of whether their parents and grandparents will need that care.”