Graduate programmes unlocking opportunities for students

Range of schemes on offer for class of 2017 contrasts sharply with decline evident during recession

Almost 600 of the country’s graduate recruiters, talent developers and industry stakeholders attended the 11th gradireland Graduate Recruitment Awards held at Dublin’s Mansion House last week

There has probably never been a better year to graduate with the number and breadth of graduate programmes on offer for the class of 2017.

While you have probably spent the last three to four years in college doing a course you picked when you were 17 or 18, the end of college nears and the world is now your oyster.

The 2017 gradireland Recruitment Awards ceremony had a record number of submissions – the growth in the number of companies starting graduate programmes, or re-introducing schemes that folded during the recession, helped to make the event a success.

As the global economic recession deepened in 2008, graduates’ programmes in the financial services and accountancy companies began to pull back or halt their graduate programmes.


The economic recovery has seen the tide turn with more than 10,000 people attending the 2016 gradireland careers fair. Graduate fairs are a good measure when it comes to assessing what skills appeal to employers.

On top of a good academic background, strong communication, teamwork, presentation and technical skills, are what make for a desirable graduate.

Training and development graduate programmes may be resource-intensive ventures, but by immersing graduates in a company’s culture, they are more likely to stay put.


The big winner at this year’s gradireland awards, EY (formerly Ernst & Young), has one of the biggest intakes of graduates each year. Winner of the Graduate Employer of the Year award, the company also took the top prize in the Best Internship Programme >50 intake category and scooped the Best Student Marketing Campaign award as well as the Diversity Recruitment Award.

As one of the leading firms in the accounting and consulting industry often referred to as the “The Big 4”, EY recruits 300 graduates annually and has positions available in five offices across the country. Graduate and internship programmes are offered in assurance, advisory, tax, transactions, IT, data and cyber.

The firm requires graduates to have a minimum of a 2:1 qualification or equivalent.

The company has developed a standard online form where graduates can start the application process. If the application is successful, graduates are then asked to take numerical, verbal and abstract reasoning tests. The final stage of the recruitment process is an interview where applicants will have an opportunity to highlight their strengths and attributes.

The company says the main aim of the interview process is to give a real insight into what it’s like to work at EY, and for the company to learn more about each candidate’s personal strengths.


One of the most successful graduate programmes in Ireland, the Jameson International Graduate Programme, has been producing significant results for both the participants and the company for 25 years, according to Sinéad D’Arcy of Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard.

“With any graduate development programme, it’s a pipeline of talent for our company, hiring the right people to do the right jobs in the right markets, and that has helped Jameson grow from a domestic brand to the international success that it is today,” says D’Arcy, who manages the programme.

The three-year programme has a typical intake of between 25 and 30 graduates, and recruits are dispersed across the globe to help augment the foothold of the group’s flagship product in both emerging and existing markets.

Such has been the success of the initiative, Jameson (which took the gong for the Most popular graduate employer in FMCG) has established a second programme in recent years which is aimed primarily at science and engineering graduates. While the graduate programme has a marketing focus, students from multiple disciplines apply each year with diverse degrees from law graduates, accountants and psychologists.

“We hire from all disciplines. Although the international programme is a marketing programme, we don’t expect that all of our applicants will come from a marketing or business background,” says D’Arcy.

“We’ve got physiotherapists, psychologists, law graduates and all kinds of graduates. We hire potential and people who know they want to work in the area of marketing.”

Paddy Power Betfair

Paddy Power Betfair runs one of the most sought after graduate programmes – it’s 2017 grad programme had 2,000 applications for 30 jobs.

The programme’s 95 per cent retention rate speaks volumes about the quality of the programme. PaddyPower Betfair allows graduates to hone in on a particular area of interests or do a more general programme.

Graduates can work within their chosen field or specialism people to work within with placements in marketing science and insights, finance or customer operations.

For graduates who want a broader experience, the commercial graduate programme offers people the opportunity to gain experience with five four-month rotations across key areas of the business including commercial international, business to business, insights and analytics, Paddy Power commercial, Betfair commercial, risk and trading, product, customer experience and retail.


Professional services firm KPMG is dedicated to developing the careers of the best and brightest talent from Irish universities.

With 300 places available in their award-winning graduate programme, the firm is looking for applications from the best and the brightest third-level talent.

It’s not just business graduates that KPMG want to hear from – like many other popular programmes, applications are welcomed from a variety of disciplines from engineering to science, law to arts.

When graduates join KPMG they go straight into a three-month training programme which introduces the trainees to the firm and brings them all to a similar level of expertise.

Car Trawler

A relative newcomer on the scene, CarTrawler is the Irish technology company behind one of the most widely distributed car rental booking engines in the world. They are an Irish success story.

Founded in 2004, with 12 employees, they have grown from strength to strength, now employing more than 200 staff in Ireland, the UK and US.

The company headquarters and customer centre of excellence are located in Dublin, with additional offices in Boston, London and Helsinki.

Gillian French, chief people officer at Car Trawler says for the company, it’s not just all about academic credentials.

“We strive to hire positive, passionate and helpful people. We hire people who care about what they do. We need our people to be very flexible and adaptable in order to be at ease with the pace of our growth and the ever changing online environment,” says French.

“It’s not all work and no play. At CarTrawler we celebrate our success together. We are proud to have developed a positive culture that enables our employees to thrive and be all that they can be. We currently employ over 450 brilliant people in Dublin, Boston, London and Helsinki, and our staff restaurant is buzzing with new faces almost every day. When you mix 45 different nationalities with a range of professionals such as creative web artists to inquisitive data scientists and everything in between, you end up with a unique workplace culture where innovation is encouraged, failure is learned from and success is celebrated. We have our people to thank for that,” says French.


At Musgrave, the graduate programme has a proven track record in providing a strong pipeline of people who have gone on to be future leaders, holding roles from Director to Marketing Manager to Head of Musgrave Business Services.

“As a business that feeds one in three people in Ireland, for us it is essential that we equip our graduates with the professional, inter-personal and leadership skills that are critical to sustaining our business success. Our programme offers a balance of experiential and formal development. This is delivered through formal training interventions and real responsibility in addition to opportunities for reflection and self-growth,” says Siobhan Scanlon, graduate programme officer at Musgrave.

“At Musgrave our core values of long-term stable relationships, not being greedy, honesty, working hard and achievement drive everything we do and enable us to look at our business in a different way, ensuring continued growth and innovation. These same values guide our approach to our graduate programme and are evident in how our graduates are immersed in our business over the course of their careers,” says Scanlon.

A common thread from the graduate employers is that your degree type is not the be all and end all, something Musgraves echo.

They welcome all degree backgrounds with a 2:1 Honours degree as the minimum criteria.

“Graduates with an entrepreneurial can-do attitude thrive in Musgrave. Roles in buying, finance, supply chain, marketing, omni-channel and store development are available and over the years we have worked with graduates holding degrees in a diverse range of specialities including food business, sports science, law and film studies. What’s important to us is to work alongside someone who shares a growth mindset and who can focus on driving their own development and careers in partnership with us,” says Scanlon.