From the campus to the dole queue


COLIN GIBSON, Ann Marie King and Tom Gaughan have all graduated in Ireland in the last 12 months. Like thousands of other graduates, they are unemployed, with no prospect of a job. Between them they have sent out hundreds of CVs, applying for jobs for everything from teaching to bar work. Not one of them has even been called for interview. Here are their stories.


Graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Cork

“I QUALIFIED WITH A primary teaching degree from Mary Immaculate College this year. I originally studied graphic design in England and qualified as a web designer and as a tennis coach and physical trainer. It was only after a few years of teaching sport to children that I realised I really wanted to be a primary school teacher.

“When I started the degree I was told that getting work wouldn’t be difficult. I have an impressive CV, a lot of qualifications, good teaching practice grades and an honours degree, so I thought it would be easier than this. Since graduating I have applied in writing to at least 40 job advertisements and I have not even received an interview. I have taken whatever subbing work I can get, which is minimal.

“My weekly routine since graduation has been applying for jobs and going around to schools with my CV, but I’m idle a lot. I qualify for social welfare at the level of ‘casual’ but it doesn’t come close to meeting my bills. I have a daughter and a mortgage. I am getting deeper in debt and feeling a little despondent and anxious. I will keep trying, because I don’t have the option to go abroad. I can’t leave my daughter.

“I have a lot of qualifications; apart from my degree in teaching I am qualified in the areas of design, IT and sport. But since graduating I’ve only spent about 10 hours in the classroom. It’s so frustrating.

“I’m concerned as to what the future holds. I believe the recession is the result of bad planning by the powers-that-be: they obviously didn’t predict the extent of the recession, which I believe could have been predicted; however, there are other countries in the same boat so perhaps it was inevitable. I do believe that cuts in education will in the long run be detrimental for the future so I worry about the direction the country is taking from that point of view.

“In terms of my own future I sincerely hope that in five years I’ll be permanent in primary school in Cork. My baby girl has to be in creche by eight in the morning so I can’t take a job more than 40km away from where I live. It’s very tough, I can’t provide under these conditions but my options are narrow. I’ve borrowed from family but that can’t go on.”


Graduate of Dundalk Institute of Technology

“I HAVE A BSC IN GENERAL NURSING from Dundalk Institute Of Technology. I haven’t worked yet. When I finished secondary school in 2006 I was certain that nursing was the career for me. I believed that nursing would be a stable, lifelong career and that I would have a profession that will enable me to live securely in Ireland.

“When I was in the second year of my course, we were told that there would be no jobs for us when we graduated from college. I was faced with the decision to continue with my studies with the possibility of having no job when I graduated, or to give up nursing altogether.

“There are currently no opportunities for permanent nursing jobs in Ireland. This became clear to me during my time on internship with the HSE. When I was out in the hospital environment I got a sense of what was really happening. Any temporary positions available require a minimum two years’ experience and as a new graduate I have only nine months’ experience. All new graduates are in the same situation. There are opportunities with nursing agencies but this work is not guaranteed from week to week. They may offer you three shifts a week or none – it’s not a stable job opportunity.

“I have just completed my four-year degree course so I am up to date with all the latest nursing techniques and skills. I am enthusiastic and willing to work in the health service. I am a highly trained professional nurse and I have a lot to offer the health service but unfortunately I am not being given the opportunity to do so in Ireland.

“I am not coping very well with being unemployed. I am extremely angry. We are not being given the opportunity to use the degree which we have worked so hard to achieve. I feel like my degree is worthless in this country. The UK, Australia and Canada are striving to obtain as many new Irish nursing graduates as possible as we have a such a high standard of education. I feel disheartened, because I know now that I will have to leave my family, friends, boyfriend and colleagues behind.”

“I believe that there are various reasons for this recession but my problem is with the government for not doing anything proactive to keep new graduates in this country. By forcing new graduates out of Ireland there is an increasing chance that many of those relocating to other countries will in fact settle down and stay there. In the future I really hope to be in Ireland and settle down with a permanent nursing job but that just does not seem like a realistic ambition anymore.”


Graduate of NUI Galway

“I GRADUATED THIS YEAR with a degree in history and politics from NUI Galway. My career plan was to go a for job in one of the multinationals here. I am interested in customer services and there were plenty of jobs like that around when I started this process.

“In second year, the doom started to set in. I had to wait a long time for my grant that year – that was as good an indication as any that there was trouble brewing. Nonetheless, I managed to find summer work during college so when I hit the jobs market this year I was very motivated, positive, sure that I could find whatever work was there.

“You can only take ‘no’ for an answer so many times before you start to get downhearted, though. I’ve tried every customer service job going, applied to all the multinationals. I’ve tried Dunnes, fast-food restaurants, bars. I travel from Mayo to Galway every week to job search. I can’t afford to move there so I’m living at home with my mum. Every week things are getting worse. Fewer jobs, fewer responses.

“I signed on in September and I’m still waiting for the dole, nearly three months later. My mother can’t support me – she’s a single parent and she’s already supporting my younger sister in college. Being on the dole (whenever I get it) is not what I had in mind for myself. I’ve always worked. I’m not lazy but I worry that people think you are lazy when you’re on the dole.

“I’m now looking at doing a TEFL course that I can use to get work abroad. I hear that there is a demand for English teachers in South Korea so I might go there. I don’t really see that I have a choice – even my mother is encouraging me to go.

“I don’t watch the news anymore if I can avoid it, even though I have a keen interest in politics and current affairs. It’s too depressing. The political system here is aimed at older people, people with incomes and pensions. My age group doesn’t vote so I’m not sure if things will change. Unbelievably we’re still stuck in civil war politics, people voting the way that their parents voted.

“The politicians and the bankers are all part of the same old hierarchy. Each time I watch the news there is another layer of the old system laid bare, another person to blame.

“It’s in the interest of my generation to change the old regime but we won’t. We’re leaving instead. It’s becoming obvious that there is nothing left in this country for the likes of me.”

Graduate Unemployment – the numbers

450,000The number of people unemployed in Ireland in September, representing a jobless rate of 13.7 per cent. This is one of the highest unemployment rates in the developed world.

100,000The number of unemployed graduates, according to recent report of the Union of Students in Ireland

30 per centThe percentage of 2009 graduates describing themselves as unemployed, according to a survey conducted by UCD Students Union

1,000The number of graduates set to leave Ireland every week, according to a USI estimate

150,000The number of graduates set to emigrate in the next five years