ICT (information and computer technology): "The past 10 years have seen the emergence of new specialisms such as cloud computing, gaming, data analytics and artificial intelligence," says Bernadette Walsh, guidance counsellor with CareersPortal.ie.
Tony Donohoe, chairman of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN), says the coming years will see more conversations about data and artificial intelligence. "The more people live in the online world, the more data they will generate. The ability to interpret is a key core competence, but this will also lead to jobs in creative industries and how to deploy new technologies."
Digital marketing: The pandemic has seen the acceleration of a shift that was already in place: a massive move to online shopping. With this, an already strong demand for digital marketers and data analytics specialists can only grow.
Jean O'Brien is founder of DigitalCharityLab.org, a not-for-profit digital enterprise which helps charities and causes build their digital campaigning skills. "Crucially, good digital marketers will focus on strategic campaigns, and measuring the success of those campaigns," she says. "The scattergun approach of throwing things onto social media and hoping some of it sticks doesn't deliver results. Digital marketers with strategic skills will become increasingly important."
Pharmaceuticals: Nine of the world's top 10 pharmaceutical firms are based in Ireland. Donohoe and Walsh both predict that the existing pharma infrastructure and talent pool mean that the sector will grow in Ireland. "Society is ageing and that will lead to more jobs in pharma and med tech," says Donohoe. "Together, ICT, pharma and finance are predicted to create 75,000 new jobs in Ireland over coming years."
Finance: Most of the world's biggest financial firms already have a solid base here, and the damage to the global hub of the city of London means that more of them will be consolidating their operations in an EU country, with Ireland set to benefit here.
Climate change: "The future is uncertain," says Donohoe. "That much is certain. But we do know that addressing climate change and environmental challenges will lead to a whole infrastructure of jobs. How do we design and model our buildings for the best insulation and ventilation? What is the best way to conserve water?
Tourism and hospitality: During the severe recession that hit Ireland in 2008, interest in construction and architecture courses – along with the construction industry – fell off a cliff. It took the best part of a decade for the industry to address the resulting skills shortage."
There are clear parallels today with the hospitality and tourism sectors, which have been hammered not by a recession but by the Covid-19 pandemic. The obvious temptation is for students to look at that industry and see no jobs now, but remember: you’re not entering the current jobs market but instead looking towards 2025 or, if you do a postgraduate course, perhaps 2027 or 2028.
“Hospitality and tourism helped get us back on our feet last time,” says Walsh. “Don’t be put off applying for them now.”
Shauna Dunlop, director of research, data and strategic engagement at Solas, also sits on the EGFSN. "Yes, hospitality and retail have been impacted but this doesn't mean that they won't recover," she says.
Languages: Brexit means that we need to diversify our export markets, says Donohoe. "A lot of companies, especially smaller companies, did not see beyond the UK market, so language skills to connect us to other markets are important."
In particular, demand for graduates with a European language (including but not limited to German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Polish) or Asian language (particularly Chinese and Japanese) will become more important.
Business skills: Often closely allied to language skills, international selling and marketing as well as logistics and supply chain management are key skills that will be valued later in this decade.
“It’s not often commented on, but the supply chains during the pandemic were remarkably resilient,” says Donohoe. “Apart from a brief period where there were shortages of pasta and flour, you could get most of what you wanted or needed back in March or April.”