What’s happening in the jobs market for graduates?

We talk to six experts about what awaits university graduates about to enter the workforce

The news is good for those who want to stay in Ireland, with employers hiring graduates from a wide range of courses.

It's the big question for graduates: what is the jobs market like this year? The news is good for those who want to stay in Ireland, with employers hiring graduates from a wide range of courses.

All six recruiters, careers advisers and labour market specialists who spoke to The Irish Times indicated that there are good opportunities in the labour market, with plenty of additional opportunities for graduates who take on courses – whether short bursts of online learning or one-year postgraduates – to pick up roles in more specialised areas.


Aisling O’Neill, a recruitment consultant with Sigmar, is currently recruiting for roles in human resources and recruitment or “talent acquisition” in anticipation of a big hiring drive in the coming months and into next year.

Adette Ring, careers officer at IT Sligo, says we are "awash with jobs" and that she is being contacted by employers across the region looking for staff for bike mechanics, engineers, quantity surveyors, pharmaceutical jobs, marketing, sports and health and fitness. There are also jobs in "green careers" tied in with sustainable development.


Brian McFadden, a client services director at Recruiters, says that recruiters have not been this busy since 1999. Sectors that were not shuttered during the pandemic – notably medicine, pharma, finance and technology – are busy. Areas of traditional graduate employment such as travel, tourism and retail, which suffered during the pandemic, are beginning to bounce back.

At time of writing, LinkedIn alone is advertising almost 1,000 graduate roles but McFadden points out that only about 50 per cent of jobs, including graduate jobs, are advertised. “Another 50 per cent are through internal promotions and referrals, so it’s always a good idea to approach the jobs market by researching the companies you would like to work for. And when you’re writing the cover letter, explain why you want to work for that employer, how their values resonate with you and what you can bring to the table in terms of the role.”

The Skills and Labour Market Research Unit at Solas, the further education and training authority, compiles regular skills bulletins.

Joan McNaboe, manager of the unit, says that Solas regularly provides information on the outlook for 100 different occupations, the numbers employed in them on a full- or part-time basis and the educational background of people working in the sector.

“Drops in employment have been in part-time and lower-paid roles, including cleaners and security guards, because of the pandemic, but there’s no impact – or indeed positive growth – in sectors such as ICT, high-tech manufacturing and finance,” she says. “Much of the shortages in occupational groups has been for people with experience. This suggests, for graduates, that it is worth trying to gain work experience in certain areas. And don’t discount the sectors that have been impacted by Covid, such as construction where the recovery has started and where there are jobs like house-building and climate-change related roles like retro-fitting. There will be a considerable recruitment drive in healthcare this year which will provide lots of opportunities.”

Claire Kelly, who specialises in IT recruitment for Sigmar, says there is an employees' market for tech graduates at the moment, but that there is a big appetite for graduates across the board, and that many companies run strong graduate recruitment programmes.

“Traditionally you may have shadowed someone but now, with people working from home, there is a risk of losing out on that informal learning,” she says. Companies are finding new ways to ensure graduates stay engaged and they’re conscious of communications and ensuring that a graduate can ask questions.”


David Coyle is senior recruitment manager at Methodius, which specialises in IT recruitment. He says that software developers, business analysts, systems analysts, data analysts and people with cloud infrastructure and computer technology skills are all in high demand, as are those with cybersecurity and software sales skills.

“Sports science and health and fitness is a big growth area: even if you just want to eat 10 packets of crisps, you still know you need to exercise and there is a growing interest in health, particularly among younger generations,” Ring says.

O’Neill says that she and her colleagues at Sigmar see significant demand in human resource and recruitment.

“It is a candidate-driven market with a lot of options, although many of the people I am recruiting have a CIPD [Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development] qualification which is an end-to-end HR function, though it may not be as necessary in talent acquisition or recruitment. Business development managers, sales, operations, marketing and finance are in demand, and there’s also a need for UX (user experience) designers.”

McFadden says that, while a lot of roles require specific qualifications or a certain degree, there are also many roles in the Irish operations of multinational firms which are centred around softer skills.

“These roles are often about customer success, where you work with the end customer to ensure they are using the product or service to full capacity, getting value and are likely to renew. This demands relationship development and management and analytical skills, as well as good skills to manage multiple caseloads and workloads. These are all skills that a graduate can hone through work experience, including in retail jobs [which they may have held part-time in college].”

Next steps

Ring advises graduates to avail of every resource possible. “There is a job for everyone out there, and there are so many platforms: at IT Sligo we use JobTeaser, but others might use Careers Connect, recruitment firms or LinkedIn. I also advise people to go back and talk to their college careers advisers. Make an appointment with them and show them your qualifications and CV, with a rough idea of where you want to work whether in Ireland or abroad, and what kind of pay you might expect. And go to the career fairs, most of which are online at the moment and which any graduate can attend. Even if you don’t necessarily want a new job, it’s worth having a look. At IT Sligo, we will hold career fairs on October 1st, 8th and 15th and anyone is welcome to attend.”

McNaboe says some graduates may need additional training or retraining for certain jobs. “Springboard has courses for areas in demand including digital marketing, logistics and supply chain management. Don’t discount hospitality, an area that has lost staff as people moved into different sectors. There are also lots of short ecollege courses available through eCollege.ie [from Solas].”

Whatever you do, Coyle advises graduates to choose an area that genuinely interests them. “You will be working for life, so you need to enjoy the journey – and employers ultimately want someone who loves what they do and wants to make a real contribution.”

National Skills Bulletin update

Joan McNaboe, manager of the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit at Solas, says the shortages identified in the National Skills Bulletin, for the most part, relate to those with a number of years of industry experience. There are some occupations where demand is evident, she says:

– Construction, demand across all the skilled trades

– Transport, logistics/supply chain managers

– Most ICT occupations, but particularly programmers and developers

– Engineering roles

– Financial sector, eg, business/financial analysts

– Hospitality, chefs, hotel, restaurants and bar managers

– Healthcare, doctors, nurses, therapists, healthcare assistants

“For some occupations that have been particularly impacted by Covid-19 restrictions, such as construction and hospitality, it was not possible to determine if shortages exist due to the high number of people in receipt of income support payments, although demand is continuing to increase in these areas as the recovery continues,” she says.

Areas of shortages at the moment include:

Science and engineering

– Analytical chemists, medical scientists

– Design, process and quality control/assurance engineer

– Engineers (mechanical, electrical, automation, validation)

ICT Occupations

– IT product/project managers

– Software developers/engineers

– IT analysts/engineers

– IT technicians with foreign languages

Business and financial occupations

– Accountants with industry specific experience

Healthcare occupations

– Medical practitioners

– Nurses

Social and care occupations

– Healthcare assistants

Construction occupations

– Quantity surveyors

– Other craft occupations

– Welders

– CNC programmers

Arts, sports and tourism occupations

– Animators