How will Brexit impact on graduate employment and opportunities? The big four accounting firms, which provide services to small, medium and large businesses around the world, are strategically planning for both their own graduate recruitment and for the needs of their clients.
We asked them whether recent college graduates should be worried and, it seems, there may be more opportunities than threats.
What positive effects will it have for graduates seeking employment?
Dermot Daly, assurance partner and sponsor for student recruitment at EY Ireland: "Brexit may bring considerable disruption but it will also enhance Ireland's position as the primary English-speaking location for talent."
Gerard McDonough, director of people and organisation at PwC: "Certain sectors, such as financial services, will have a positive upswing. Barclay's bank is just one such player but tech and pharma organisations will as well. Organisations looking to establish an EU base here will create opportunities. Now is a good time for graduates to come into the workplace and they will find they can make an impact; many are tech savvy with strong STEM skills but it's also important that they are rounded out with the emotional intelligence, innovation, agility, adaptability, creativity and collaboration skills that still elude artificial intelligence and bots."
Róisín Fitzpatrick, senior manager, global employer services, Deloitte: "We've seen an increase in graduate recruitment in Ireland over the past year. We expect this is due to a growth in the workforce as companies expand their businesses in Ireland. We are also seeing an increase in graduates applying for roles in Ireland and expect this is in part stemming from Brexit, where the UK no longer offers this security to graduate employees."
Brian Daly, head of Brexit, KPMG Ireland: "Some areas may see increases in employment opportunities but it is unlikely they will compensate for the overall problems that, in particular, a 'no deal' situation would cause."
Paul Vance, head of resourcing, KPMG Ireland: "We work on the principle that Ireland will remain a good place to do business and we expect to have continued demand for talented, ambitious people. Our clients are incredibly varied so not surprisingly, the Brexit impact will differ by sector. I wouldn't be complacent about the impact of Brexit but it's really important to keep progressing your own career plans and enhancing your appeal to potential employers."
What negative effects will Brexit have for graduates seeking employment?
GMcD: "Indigenous manufacturing firms selling to the UK will have to cut their cloth, but if they have historically hired graduates, they will want that to continue and will need people with digital and science or tech skills."
DD: "New business and talent which could previously have gone to the UK will arrive on our shores, creating competition for local graduates seeking opportunities."
BD: "It is difficult to see Brexit not having an impact on the Irish economy and on employment opportunities in sectors with a big exposure to the British market, particularly where companies are vulnerable to costs as a result of even slight increases in trade friction."
What other impacts might we see?
RF: "There has been a significant increase in applications for employment permits in Ireland to allow non-EEA [European Economic Area] nationals work here. Ireland is viewed as an attractive location as both EEA and non-EEA nationals view Dublin as an opportunity to develop their careers in a locale where their immigration permission will not be threatened in the longer term. With the growth of non-EEA nationals seeking work and residence permission in Ireland, we are seeing Government infrastructure coming under pressure and we hope that additional resources would be able to resolve this."
PV: "My experience is that, despite the ebb and flow of the economy – the shock of recession some years back being a good example – highly motivated graduates will always find good roles."
How are you preparing for Brexit?
DD: "We are continually looking at the recruitment environment and any type of disruption which could impact our talent pipeline. We look for talent that can bring a range of transferable skills and can adapt to different environments. We need to continue to attract top talent including by offering a flexible working environment which provides the opportunity to build skills with appropriate training and development."
GMcD: "Our graduate recruitment is typically around 300+ but is now rising to at least 330 to service our wide customer base. We hire graduates from digital, cyber security, customs, trade and financial services and we are reaching a broader graduate pool than ever before which will continue to grow as we look to solve client problems. We will still need to provide opportunities for graduates despite Brexit or geopolitical economics and we will need a wide array of consulting experience and skills."
How are your clients preparing?
GMcD: "Organisations who are preparing well are putting in place the mechanisms for impact assessments on their people, not just in terms of employment contracts or arrangements but also what succession planning looks like and how the workforce progresses over a three-year period and how to attract, engage and keep graduates. But for certain organisations in certain sectors, there is a threat, so I would like to think they have plans in place to look beyond the UK into other markets. How can they pivot and do things differently? Where is the excess capacity in the business? If they turn off the graduate pipeline, they may find themselves without skills and experience and rue the cost in a few years time."
DD: "Firms need to prepare for the talent implications of Brexit by ensuring open communication with their employees in the lead-up to the UK's departure from the EU."
PV: "Change, whether driven by technology, geopolitics, or any big issue, tends to drive demand for skills that can be applied to helping businesses take advantage of opportunities."
DD: "Despite the threats posed by a no-deal Brexit, a lot of work is being done by Government, State agencies and Irish business to mitigate the challenges and take advantage of opportunities that may emerge from Brexit."