Ask Brian: What are my employment options in the financial sector?

Apprenticeships now offer school-leavers a route into major firms in the finance sector

A new International Financial Services (IFS) apprenticeship gives students an opportunity to earn while they learn. Photo: iStock

Question: My son secured work experience through a family friend in AIB in the IFSC last year. He really enjoyed it and is taking business in his Leaving Cert in June. Are there employment/apprenticeship opportunities in the banking/finance industries for those who don't go on to third-level?

Answer: With a recovering economy, many financial institutions are again recruiting for entry-level positions which are open to graduates, but also to school-leavers and those who may have taken further education courses in business.

If your son is interested in seeking employment opportunities in the financial services sector following his Leaving Cert, he should now write to the branch managers of his local banks, enquiring about their current recruitment programmes relevant to school-leavers.

Regarding apprenticeships, September 2017 saw the launch of a new International Financial Services (IFS) apprenticeship (


It as been developed by the industry group Financial Services Ireland in conjunction with National College of Ireland (NCI).

Your son could apply to become an IFS associate apprentice, which would give him an opportunity to earn while he learns.

This apprenticeship weaves on-the-job and off-the-job modules, capturing progress through a mix of continuous assessment, exams and an ongoing electronic portfolio of work-based evidence.

Successful applicants for this programme receive a two-year fixed term contract with a financial services company at an annual salary of €23,000.

They end up with a higher certificate in International Financial Services (level 6) and, that most highly sought-after prize, relevant work experience.

Many of the very same IFSC-based companies, such as Fenergo, Allianz, State Street, Citi and Aon, that are recruiting level 8 honours degree business graduates, and those with masters in business degrees, are offering school-leavers IFS apprenticeships.

Minimum entry requirements for the IFS associate apprenticeship are a grade H7/O6 or above in five Leaving Cert subjects. A minimum grade O6 must be obtained in English. A minimum of grade O6 or a B2 or above in foundation level must be obtained in maths.

Holders of a certificate in business (QQI level five) or an advanced certificate in business (QQI level six) or equivalent can also apply for entry onto the IFS associate apprenticeship course.

An IFS apprenticeship can also be taken up at a specialist level. Graduates with a 2.2 honours degree at level 8 in any discipline can apply to work towards a higher diploma in financial services analytics. Successful applicants earn€32,000 a year on a two-year fixed term contract with a financial services company.

The mix of on-the-job and academic experience will influence what they choose to do upon completion.

There are also opportunities to continue as an apprentice, progressing onto level 7, 8 or 9.

They may find they enjoy the academic side more than they had anticipated and wish to delve deeper into understanding the theory behind the practices.

This is where the QQI qualification provided by NCI comes in, as it allows learners to then move into full-time further or higher education, pursuing a range of business and finance qualifications.