Graduates in Ireland considering their career options are doing so in an economy which saw a 1.5 per cent or 35,300 increase to 2,410,100 in the labour force in 2018.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for February 2019 was 5.6 per cent, down from the revised rate of 5.7 per cent in January 2019 and down from 5.8 per cent in February 2018. The seasonally adjusted number of persons unemployed was 135,100 in February 2019, down from 136,800 when compared to the January 2019 figure and a decrease of 1,600 when compared to February 2018.

The youth unemployment rate in Ireland has dropped to 13.8 per cent in February 2019, a fall of 0.1 on January 2018.

Brexit

For Irish graduates the looming cloud of Brexit uncertainty is still casting a shadow over the ongoing positive picture of employment opportunities but hopefully, the UK government has run out of road to kick the can down. Whatever the final shape of the withdrawal agreement, there are still years of negotiations ahead to agree the nature of the EU-UK economic relationship. Graduates securing employment in the ever-growing multinational sector may not have too many concerns relating to these negotiations, but those seeking or gaining employment in companies operating in our domestic economic sector, which has traditionally traded heavily with the UK, will spend the next few years in a continuous state of uncertainty. The contrast in security of employment, and salaries on offer between the rapidly diverging fortunes of these two sectors of the Irish economy will be of major significance in the career planning of graduates.

Do postgraduate levels of education increase employability?

Why would a graduate consider starting a postgraduate programme when employment prospects are looking so good in general? International and local research shows that higher levels of education increase employability as well as salary. This trend is most evident in degree programmes which impart a specific skill set, where high CAO points, or equivalent qualification, are an entry requirement.

Conversely, many graduates from programmes where CAO points requirements are modest, find themselves competing in employment markets which in the recent past were the exclusive preserve of school leavers. Some of these students who secure modest academic outcomes, which preclude their advancement to postgraduate studies, or who drop out prior to the completion of their initial course choice, do not experience any income premium over and above school leavers.

Do graduates always receive a postgraduate premium?

The belief that moving up the education ladder always improves your employability and salary prospects is based on what is known as the “graduate premium”.

The “premium” is often referred to as the “return on investment” in higher education.

As the EU and Irish economies strengthen and employment opportunities for undergraduates increase, the challenge for colleges to make the case that continuing onto post graduate level will lead directly to an improvement in their employability and salary over a lifetime is becoming more difficult.



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