Strange tasks decide 'Ireland's brightest student'

Thu, Mar 15, 2012, 00:00

BUILDING a device to hurl an egg across a room without breaking it or directing blindfolded teammates with only the aid of a whistle are not generally the core skills that employers seek in graduates.

Yet these were some of the challenges undertaken by 60 students in the first ever Grad Ireland National Student Challenge final, held yesterday at UCD.

Maeve McCleane, HR manager with Lidl Ireland, who assessed students at the event, explained that the company can extrapolate a lot from these strange-sounding tasks.

“You can assess so many skills that you’re looking for. For us we were looking to assess planning, organisation and structure,” she said, adding that the team had seen some real stand-out students over the course of the day.

“There were some wonderful personalities: confident, dynamic young people who you know are going to make a difference in business in the future.”

Yesterday’s final saw the top 60 from a field of more than 1,400 students who took an online test take part in six challenges for the ultimate prize: to “be crowned Ireland’s brightest student”, according to the event organisers.

As they debated, designed and directed each other through the various tasks set for them, the students were evaluated by assessors from the five employers that sponsored the event: Lidl, PriceWaterhouseCooper, Ernst and Young, EMC and Ericsson.

The assessors deemed the overall winner to be David Galbraith of Queen’s University Belfast (also the top scorer in the online test), who won €1,000.

Runner-up Ian Woods, from UCD, received €500 and Eimear Ellis, from Trinity College Dublin, was awarded €200 for third place.

Grad Ireland’s Mark Mitchell said: “Even if they don’t get a job they’re finding out what the core competencies and employability skills are that an employer is looking for,” Mr Mitchell said.

“Lots of graduate recruiters use assessment centres and psychometric tests to filter students in the job application process so they’ll have a head start,” he said.

The event was supported by The Irish Times, the Association of Higher Education Careers Services, Postgradireland, UCD Quinn School of Business and Cut-e.