Graduate prospects boosted as most sectors see growth

There are plenty of employment opportunities for graduates as employers battle for skilled and talented workers

It has been predicted that 21,000 jobs will be created in the biopharma sector by 2027. Photograph: iStockphoto

The class of 2024 has not had it easy. Most of this year’s graduates started college a few months after Covid-19 hit. For most of their first year, Ireland was in and out of lockdown, and further and higher education generally took place remotely.

They missed out on that in-person college experience and, with that, missed out on the chance to get involved in student life. The jobs they traditionally rely on didn’t exist, with hospitality and retail businesses either shuttered or on hold. And then, just when things finally seemed to be returning to normal, inflation soared and rents continued to rise, making student life simply unaffordable for many.

To date, the cost of living remains high, and younger people – who are usually on lower incomes because they’re starting off in their career – have borne the brunt.

But here’s the good news: Ireland is in a jobs boom. Unemployment is very low and the rate of inflation is slowing, according to the most recent analysis from the Economic and Social Research Institute.


For graduates who are staying in Ireland this means that there are plenty of employment opportunities – and, once again, this should give graduates the upper hand as employers battle for skilled and talented workers.

“Lots of sectors are busy and buoyant,” says career psychologist Sinéad Brady. “Ireland is at full employment. There were some lay-offs in the tech sector last year but now there are plenty of jobs in areas like software, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.”

AI is likely to affect between 30 and 60 per cent of jobs, Brady says. Some sectors will benefit and others may see displacement.

“Psychologists, actors, athletes and anything that depends on human skill may be better protected,” she says. “But graduates are increasingly thinking of terms of the suite of skills that they bring to workplaces. Every time you engage with new information or in a new way, you deepen those transferable skills, and in this fifth industrial revolution people will recruit for transferable skills and talents, as well as the ability to do the job and get along with people.”

Joan McNaboe, research manager of the skills and labour market research unit at Solas, the further education and training agency, says most sectors are growing and graduate recruitment looks set to be strong.

Every year the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, of which Solas is a member, releases a skills bulletin to highlight the main areas where employers are reporting skills shortages. It also releases in-depth periodic reports on skill requirements in certain areas.

In April its report on the financial services sector forecasted that the international financial sector will need to recruit between 6,000 and 9,000 people by the end of 2027, particularly in the areas of fintech and payments, asset management, investment funds and securities services, insurance and reinsurance, international banking, wholesale capital markets, and aircraft leasing and finance.

While many of these skills shortages will be more acutely felt at higher-level, more specialised roles, the study suggests that there could be a shortfall of more than 4,000 graduates by 2027.

In the biopharma sector, meanwhile, the expert group predicts that 21,000 additional jobs are likely to be created in Ireland by 2027. The report points to a potential shortfall of 3,000 graduates entering the sector, with a new demand for specific skills in manufacturing, digitalisation, regulation and research and development.

“Skills for the digital transformation of the sector are going to be very important, as are leadership and transversal skills,” the report states.

This may be particularly good news for non-Stem graduates, as these are precisely the types of skills that they bring to the table. And it highlights how humanities and business graduates can apply their skills to bring a deeper analysis – particularly in relation to proper use and application of new and emerging technologies – to all sorts of sectors.

“In all the statistical analyses across various sectors the arts graduate can get a bit lost but it is not a bad time for them, either,” McNaboe says. “We are seeing, for instance, lots of sales roles, and with the labour supply shrinking, they have a chance to pick and choose the roles they want.”

He adds: “The sustainability agenda, including the growth of renewable energy, is creating jobs. There may be a little caution around ICT but it is still a huge sector and ICT professionals are still needed across the economy. Pressure on the Government to deliver on construction targets is creating jobs across the sector, including civil engineering and quantity surveying roles, alongside trades like carpentry and plumbing. Employment is rising in healthcare.”

The recent closure of Token, a popular arcade bar in Smithfield, Dublin, prompted much soul-searching about how even successful, popular hospitality businesses are struggling to keep on top of ever-rising costs. Does this indicate that hospitality and retail may be one of the few areas where graduates could struggle to find jobs? And, as many graduates often work in customer service or hospitality for a while after college, could it affect them?

“The sector may be under pressure from the cost of living and the ongoing recovery from Covid-19 closures, and the sector faces challenges, but there are still quality jobs available in it,” McNaboe says.

“Overall, if you are looking for work, there are opportunities.”