Navigating a way through a fragile jobs market

Investing in people is critical for building resilience in companies


Following the lockdown in March, Ireland quickly moved from a short-term emergency response approach to the coronavirus pandemic to a medium-term approach aimed at managing risk and repairing the damage that COVID-19 has inflicted on society.

Much of political focus in the following months was on the 2020 Leaving Cert class, the postponement of the exams, the introduction of calculated grades and then the Round One CAO offers issued earlier this month.

It should be acknowledged that third-level students, particularly those who were studying for their finals, also had to contend with very similar pressures.

And it couldn’t really have happened at a worse time from their point of view.

With just a few short months left before the exams were due to take place the virus arrived and prompted sudden university shut-downs and a sharp turn-around from the traditional face-to-face style of third-level teaching most students were used to.

Students had contend with this disruption very late in the day as their long-planned for exams were replaced with a combination of essays, assignments and remotely-held examinations.

And, while colleges did their best, not everyone had equal access to the hardware and technology required to optimise their learning experience.

Secondary school and third-level students showed great resilience and maturity while negotiating the uncertainty during the final months of the last academic year.

The flexibility they displayed will stand to them particularly as they enter the world of work. Investing in people is critical for building resilience in companies and that is why recruiters place great emphasis on transversal skills.

These, in essence, are skills that are not necessarily linked to a specific role or job but can be used in a wide variety of situations and work settings.

Many of the skills and experience gained by students during this recent period will be transferable to a professional environment and in some cases graduates may even end up mentoring more senior members of staff who may not be as comfortable with newer, more flexible, ways of remote working.

Autumn is now upon us and, if you are a final year college student, you may well be thinking ahead and what options will be available to you as you once you leave college.

With some time still left to go before exams and dissertations take centre stage, you will have plenty of opportunities to explore graduate and careers fairs – most of which will now be online - where you can gain insights into the companies you might work for in the future.

We know the economy has been severely impacted by the necessary protection measures introduced to fight the pandemic.

Graduate recruitment is proving resilient this year with many employers continuing to run their graduate programmes but it is believed the number of places available could well be lower in 2021.

Yet, while the strength of economic recovery remains uncertain in the absence of a medical solution, there are some bright spots in the gloom. Sectors such as aviation, tourism and hospitality have been adversely affected but other sectors such as education, pharma, healthcare, ICT and financial services are continuing to see demand.

Managing health risks will remain a priority even as countries reopen but as we chart our way out of the economic damage caused by the virus there will be more opportunities to build a smarter, greener and more equitable future.

Considering what type of company you would like to work for will be one of the crucial decisions you make at this stage of your life.

Should you accept the first job you are offered, or should you wait and continue your education?

What kind of graduate recruitment schemes – which represent a central pillar of the recruitment process for so many firms - do the major companies offer?

In this magazine we examine what employers look for in recruits as well as looking at what exactly graduates should look for in an employer and we address some of the questions graduates or final year students may have about entering the world of work in 2020.

Keep an eye on for the latest developments on the economy, the world of work and on graduate prospects for the year ahead.

Best of luck!