Where to next for the Bailout Generation?


They’ve done everything right – studied hard in school and in college and made it to their final year. Now the Bailout Generation is facing the end of third level and an uncertain future. What do five final year arts and social science students at UCD make of the state of the nation?

Why did you choose arts? Any regrets?

Linda Kearns is studying geography and sociology, and admits that when she chose her subjects she was not really factoring the economy into the equation. “I chose according to my interests rather than the jobs market. Perhaps if I had known that unemployment would grow so much over the course of my degree I might have made choices based on growth areas, like ICT. However, if I had, I may not have enjoyed my course as much as I have, or stuck with it.”

Mícheál Gallagher, a social science student, says that “a significant number” of students have dropped out of his course over the past three years, but he’s very happy with his choice. “I want to be a social worker. This degree won’t qualify me for that job – I’ll have to study more – but I’m well on the way. People have dropped out of my course for financial reasons as far as I can see. It’s getting harder to hang on in college if your income is average.”

Despite the bad news coming from the teachers’ unions about employment prospects for teaching graduates, Bernard Westlake has studied arts with an eye on the classroom. “I didn’t go through the colleges of education because I don’t want to teach religion and music and all those subjects you have to teach at primary level. The arts degree combined with HDip is a better option for me.”

For Paddy Guiney, the choice to take arts was based on his dad’s advice. “He told me to do what I enjoy, rather than trying to pitch myself at a particular section of the jobs market. I loved history in school so I took history and politics and it was definitely the right choice.”

Are you ready for the jobs market?

None of the students feels ready to follow their chosen career path after three years in college. They are all looking at fourth level, although they face challenges to get there.

Mícheál Gallagher needs to do a postgraduate course in UCC to qualify as a social worker, but he needs €20,000 in the bank before he can consider it.

“I work about 30 hours a week in a restaurant to get through college, but I can’t save because it just covers me,” he says. “I’m going to take two to three years off when I graduate next year and work up the €20,000 I need. I’m considering working on cruise ships because the living costs are low and I can save more of my income. Either way, I’m determined to be a social worker so I’ll do whatever it takes.”

“A masters was always the plan for me,” says Linda Kearns. “I’m looking at a postgraduate course in the business area in the hope that it will ready me for the jobs market. I’m still not sure what I want to do at the end of all this.”

Michelle Dougherty has her eye on teaching so she’ll be studying some more, but not in Ireland. “I always had a plan to travel after finishing my degree,” she says. “I’ll be applying for courses in the UK next year. My arts degree has given me a lot of skills, especially around independent study. You have to unlearn a great deal after the Leaving Cert – you’re so spoon fed in school that it takes a couple of years to turn that around. I feel ready to take on more learning but not to enter the jobs market yet.”

Bernard Westlake must secure a HDip programme at home in order to pursue his career goal – to teach in Ireland.

Paddy Guiney is also looking at postgraduate options but, with two younger siblings about to enter college in the next couple of years, he thinks he may have to take some time out to earn money bartending before he can take on another expensive year in college. For all five, careers are a long way off yet.

Should I stay or should I go?

“There’s a very negative spin on the whole idea of emigration at the moment, but for many students travel is the ideal, an opportunity not to be missed,” says Michelle Dougherty. “I’ll probably apply to a postgraduate teaching course in the UK and who knows where the job might take me. I’m open to anything. Besides, recession or no recession, if you want to do something badly enough you can’t just sit around waiting for the job to come to you.”

Paddy Guiney would prefer to stay in Ireland and he’s not going to go unless he’s forced to. “I firmly believe that the jobs are here if you look for them. People have a romantic idea about Australia and its endless jobs and endless beaches but I want to stay in Dublin if I can.”

“My sister just emigrated to Australia last month and my cousin is going next,” says Linda Kearns. “It’s sad to see them off, but I hope they’ll be back. I’d like to go myself but just for a year. I want to settle here if I can.”

Money – too tight to mention?

Bernard Westlake is worried that when his special rate grant comes to an end next year he won’t be able to manage a postgraduate teaching course, which is intense, and a job to keep him afloat.

“My fees will be covered but I’ll have nothing to live on,” he says. “Like a lot of people, my background is difficult. One of my parents died when I was young and it hasn’t been easy.”

“I watched the Budget very closely last week,” says Mícheál Gallagher. “Tiny changes make a big difference to me. For example, the universal social charge was a big hit to my restaurant earnings. Luckily, Noonan raised the amount you can earn to €10,000 before you have to pay it. That will benefit many students working part-time. However, I need to work out if the VAT rise and the student registration fee hike will wipe out whatever I’ve gained on the universal social charge. I have a bit of number crunching to do.”

Michelle Dougherty takes a more philosophical view. “The recession has brought money-consciousness back. That’s not a bad thing. The things we got used to in the boom seemed necessary but we all have to think more carefully now.

“I ran up a massive loan in the last few years and I’m realising, along with many other people, that my day-to-day living expenses can, and must, come down.”

Five for the future: what the class of 2012 are up to

Name: Bernard Westlake.

Course: Arts (English and geography).

Hometown: Wexford.

Dream job: Teacher.

What I’m reading:John Grisham’s The Confession.

What I’m listening to:Swedish House Mafia, David Guetta, Calvin Harris, LMFAO and all that kind of stuff.

What I’m visiting (websites):Facebook, StumbleUpon, and Sporcle.

Where I’m socialising:UCD library.

Pet hates:Noisy eaters, tappers and college assignments.

My favourite things:Reading, going to the gym and hanging out with friends.

Name:Linda Kearns.

Course:Arts (geography and sociology).

Hometown:Clonmel, Co Tipperary.

Dream job:Fashion editor for US Vogue. . . one can dream.

What I’m reading: The New Imperialismby David Harvey.

What I’m listening to:Mac Miller and The Naked And Famous.

What I’m visiting (websites):StumbleUpon.

Where I’m socialising:UCD Library – it’s study week.

Pet hates:Getting “fraped” (when someone edits your profile without your permission) on Facebook.

My favourite things:Tea and a Twirl.

Name:Mícheál Gallagher.

Course:Bachelor of Social Science (social work pathway).

Hometown:Gaoth Dobhair (Gweedore), Co Donegal.

Dream job:Social worker.

What I’m reading: Imperiumby Robert Harris.

What I’m listening to:The Coronas new album, Closer To You.

What I’m visiting (websites):TheJournal.ie, StumbleUpon.

Where I’m socialising:UCD Student Bar.

Pet hates:My bicycle lights being stolen. It happened three times last month.

My favourite things: I love playing goalkeeper in soccer and volunteering with different charities (getting work experience).

Name:Michelle Dougherty.

Course:Arts (English and geography).

Hometown: Kilmacrennan, Co Donegal.

Dream job:A teacher – one day.

What I’m reading:I’m just after finishing T he New York Trilogyby Paul Auster.

What I’m listening to:Foster the People and Ed Sheeran are played a lot on my iPod at the minute.

What I’m visiting (websites):Facebook is a big distraction around exam time unfortunately.

Where I’m socialising:There’s not much time for socialising, but when we are having fun, we are usually on a night out in town, or browsing in Dundrum Town Centre.

Pet hates:Noisy people in the library.

My favourite things:Getting home to Donegal for the weekend.

Name: Paddy Guiney.

Course: Arts (politics and history).

Hometown:Clontarf, Dublin.

Dream job:Marketing in a sports company. What I’m reading: Muhammad Ali: His Life and Timesby Thomas Hauser.

What I’m listening to:Mumford & Sons.

What I’m visiting (websites):bbc.co.uk, Facebook and Gig Guide.

Where I’m socialising:UCD Student Bar, D2 and Whelan’s.

Pet hates:Spam in your email.

My favourite things:Going to live sessions in Whelan’s, playing FIFA.com’s trivia game and attempting to cook.