ICT and business skills in high demand

Increasing convergence across almost all sectors of the economy leading to greater job mobility

Undergraduates expecting to secure employment upon graduation might be surprised to discover that they may lack a range of core skills which employers look for when recruiting.

For many, the option of undertaking a postgraduate programme, which will add to and complement their existing skills, is one they need to consider. Such a programme will add a set of transversal or cross-sectoral skills to complement their CV and enhance their employability.

There is increasing convergence between sectors such as information and communications technology (ICT), business and engineering, which were once considered to be unique in their own right. ICT now permeates almost all sectors of the economy, and similarly, strong business skills are relevant across many sectors.

Accounting firms today don’t only hire accountants – they are also on the lookout for marketing, IT and engineering graduates.


Arts and journalism graduates who can bring communications and social media skills are sought after by firms who need to expand their social media and online presence.

Data analytics is the fastest-growing skill in demand in 2018 and demand is set to continue in the years ahead. The combination of data and marketing skills is perhaps the most highly sought-after combination.

One of the greatest challenges facing all sectors of employment both at governmental and private sector is the ever-present IT security threats, and the corresponding need for greater data protection is feeding demand for IT security roles with increased demand for dedicated cyber-security functions.

Ever-increasing investment in web-based services has created a major skills shortage for software developers with Java, .NET, Python, Ruby on Rails and Scala, in particular.

Changing face of finance and technology

The intersection between finance and technology has undergone a huge shift which is changing the face of the financial services landscape.

The opportunities for hybrid professionals – graduates with skills spanning financial services and technology – will continue to grow as the finance and technology sector sees increasing collaboration between government, education and industry sectors.

There are abundant opportunities for graduates in 2018 with large financial institutions, particularly post Brexit as London-based firms seek to establish units in other EU jurisdictions. Opportunities are also available in smaller global tech companies operating in the financial sphere, as traditional companies work towards adapting to the rise of finance and technology.

Cross-sectoral skills

Increasingly, there are overlaps in the skills required across different sectors and job roles.

In addition to sector-specific skills, transversal and cross-sectoral employability skills are increasingly being sought by employers. Skills in demand in this respect include people skills, critical/analytical thinking skills, management skills and creativity, design and innovation, entrepreneurialism, team working, communications and business acumen, with ICT skills and foreign languages/ cultural awareness in particular.

Languages in demand include: German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, the Nordic languages and a growing need for Mandarin.

Graduate recruitment and training

Every year many companies, across a wide range of sectors, recruit graduates and post-graduates. The larger companies typically have graduate training programmes in place. They recruit graduates who can demonstrate strong academic ability, but who may have limited or even no experience of the world of work.

A graduate training programme is a way of bridging this gap by easing new entrants into the world of work and equipping them with the necessary skills required by the organisation. Graduate training programmes tend to be up to two years long.

Some will offer opportunities in different areas of the business before settling on a specific career area within the company. Such programmes are an excellent opportunity to learn on the job, gain experience and earn some money at the same time. Graduate training programmes are a significant stepping stone to a permanent job. Some examples of cross-sector graduate recruitment campaigns include CRH, Intel, Analog Devices, Deloitte, Bank of Ireland, ESB and Accenture.

European Movement (EM) Ireland has a long-running internship programme, where final-year students or recent graduates undertake a placement for between three and six months in their offices in Dublin city centre.

BIM Seafood Graduate Training Programme is an 11-month programme for graduates of food, marketing and business degrees in partnership with UCC and LKIT aimed at promoting careers in the seafood industry. See BIM.ie

Where are the employment Opportunity that I could consider converting too?

For existing graduates considering securing employment, there is an excellent source of information available under the Labour market section on the careersportal.ie website. Careersportal are currently listing 180 occupational areas that employers have indicated they are having trouble in recruiting suitably qualified staff for.

The National Skills Bulletin for 2017 published by the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit of Solas also provides a comprehensive picture of skills shortages relevant to graduates in Science, Engineering, ICT, Business and Finance, Healthcare, Construction Professionals, Transport and Customer services. But, there may be a gap between the skills these employers are looking for and the skills you are leaving college with. It is possible to bridge this gap?

Upskilling, training and further training

Springboard+ is an initiative for higher education that offers 208 free, part-time and intensive conversion courses in higher education at certificate, degree and master’s level, leading to qualifications that are in demand among employers. Applications can also be made for one-year full time and two-year part time ICT skills conversion courses.

There are currently 6,471 places available through Higher Education Authority (HEA) funding, in areas such as Construction, Business and Enterprise, Financial Services, Hospitality, Food and Beverage, Information/Communications, Technology, Advanced Manufacturing, Marketing, and Language and Communications. Most courses are one-year or less.

All the courses aim to reskill people in areas where job opportunities in skilled employment are growing – ICT; high-level manufacturing; medical devices; biopharma; financial services; skills to trade internationally; entrepreneurship and business start-up; and niche skills in the construction industry.

Springboard+ qualifications are available in cross-enterprise skills such as innovation, enterprise/entrepreneurship, digital marketing and project management. To find out more about Springboard+ or to apply for one of its courses visit springboardcourses.ie.

Springboard+ is co-funded by the Irish government and the European Social Fund as part of the ESF programme for employability, inclusion and learning 2014-2020.

Brian Mooney

Brian Mooney

Brian Mooney is a guidance counsellor and education columnist. He contributes education articles to The Irish Times