Matching skills with labour market demand

Postgraduate programme will add set of cross-sectoral skills to enhance employability

For many, the option of undertaking a postgraduate programme, which will add to and complement their existing skills, is one they need to consider.

Undertaking a postgraduate programme is one way in which today’s graduates are future-proofing for a constantly evolving jobs market.

Undergraduates expecting to secure employment upon finighing their primary degree might be surprised to discover that they may lack the 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 cross-sectoral skills to complement their CV and enhance their employability.

There is increasing confluence 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 now the fastest-growing skill in demand 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.

Evolving 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.

Finance and technology

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

With dozens of Irish start-ups operating in this area, the expectation is for significant growth in this area in the coming years.

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

There are abundant opportunities for graduates with large financial institutions and smaller global tech companies operating in the financial sphere as traditional companies work towards adapting to the rise of finance and technology.

Skill overlap

There are increasing overlaps in the skill sets required across different sectors and job roles. In addition to sector-specific skills, cross-sectoral employability skills are increasingly being sought by employers.

These 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, and cultural awareness, which is vitally important in developing our markets outside of the British Isles in a post Brexit environment.

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

Graduate recruitment and training

Every year dozens of companies, across a wide range of sectors, recruit graduates and postgraduates. 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 of three to four months, where final-year students or recent graduates undertake a placement for between three and six months in their offices in Dublin city centre. Check out for details of other graduate recruitment programmes.

Upskilling, training and further training

There may be a gap between the skills employers are looking for and the skills you are leaving college with. It is possible to bridge this gap.

Springboard is an initiative for higher education that offers free, part-time courses at certificate, degree and master’s level, leading to qualifications that are in demand among employers.

Most courses are one-year or less. In a rapidly shifting economic environment, Springboard courses have provided more than 35,000 people with a new skillset, specifically tailored to the needs of today’s market.

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

The current Springboard+ programme offers a choice of more than 245 free, part-time and intensive conversion courses in higher education from certificate to degree to post-graduate level at certificate, degree and postgraduate level. Most are part-time, but there are also some full-time courses including ICT conversion courses. There are 8,088 free places available throughout the country.

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

Brian Mooney

Brian Mooney

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