Employing the graduates

According to information released recently by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), 10 per cent of those who graduated from Irish higher education institutions with an honours degree in 2008 were unemployed six months later. The figure for those graduating with a postgraduate degree in 2008 (including PhDs) was even higher, at 12 per cent. Both figures showed a very considerable worsening of graduate unemployment: a year earlier the percentages had been 3 and 5, respectively.

The HEA document described this as being one of the ‘full effects of the recession’, and this may well explain the increase. However, this trend will need to be watched over the next year or so; data relating to 2009 graduates should by now be available for comparison purposes. If the trend continues, it provides us with an additional reason for looking again at higher education participation targets, and at the capacity of the labour market to absorb the planned increases. There must necessarily always be some graduate unemployment, but rates of 10 per cent should raise some questions. As I have noted before, it may make more sense to increase higher education participation in a targeted way amongst socio-economically disadvantaged groups than to raise the overall participation rate.

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9 Comments on “Employing the graduates”

  1. kevin denny Says:

    10% might seem low, after all the unemployment rate is higher. Whoop-di-do. But rememember many of the graduates are continuing their studies or are otherwise engaged. So according to the HEA 50% are in employment so that makes the unemployment rate for this group 10/60= 17% : not so good.


  2. You are not far short of saying that greater participation in higher education is a bad thing!


    • No, I am not saying that. I think that participation needs to receive a more subtle analysis. I see no reason why we should pull out all the stops to ensure that 100 per cent of the kids in Foxrock and Stillorgan go to university; some of them are not really intellectually equipped for it, but money buys them the grinds that (just about) get them there.

      I *do* however believe we ned to work energetically at participation levels from Ballymun, Finglas, Coolock, Leitrim, Westmeath…

      • Kevin O'Brien Says:

        There are alternative modes of education. As well as higher education, there is further Education (the mode usual to paramedics, electricians etc) and professional education (a broad term describing the mode usual to solicitors, Insurance, actuaries, accountants and in particular IT professionals)

        In the case of professional education, it is now commonplace that one would have a relevant degree before starting in the route, but in most cases that isnt necessary at all for a candidate to pursue professional qualification.

        Also it is conventional that one would be already employed in the relevant sector, but in many cases a candidate will start their professional education themselves; studying for and obtaining entry level qualifications, to enhance their prospects of getting a job in their chosen field.

        Also, as self study is a frequently used mode of professional education, a candidate would be able to pursue their studies in their own home area. I got my Microsoft Office qualification over a summer spent working at home in Westmeath.

        I am painting a very simplified picture of the whole thing here. There are lots of obstacles a candidate would have to overcome.
        Not having a relevant degree does become an issue when it comes to applying for jobs, but that is an issue with the hiring companies rather than the awarding bodies.

        Why not promote professional education as well as higher education? why not get rid of some of the obstacles I mentioned.

        This is presumably similar to what FvP is saying. It is more practical approach for many intending to develop their career.

        • colummccaffery Says:

          It is very important to distinguish between training and education. (Incidentally, I’ve argued that education rather than training is increasingly required for employment: http://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/increased-emphasis-on-vocational-education-is-a-pretty-bad-idea-now/)Often training is thought to be best for the poor. Often the poor buy into such nonsense.

          I accept the point that many students are, well, let’s say, unready for university. However, the reason that they are there is that their leaving cert results come up the level required by the colleges. The problem lies in poor primary and secondary education and a daft 3rd level reliance on the CAO market which hides the need to look at the quality of intake and to set more demanding entry requirements.

          Participation rates by social class or region is another matter altogether and is about the creation of a more equal society.


  3. Colum, your link to your blog post doesn’t work – maybe you could re-send, as I’d like to read that.

    Pending a look at what you have written, I’d have to disagree with you, at least somewhat, about training. Yes, we do need training. Lawyers need to be trained. Doctors need to be trained. I’m afraid I’m not going with the brain surgeon who hasn’t been trained but who assures me he has a great general education.

    The question is whether training is best delivered in undergraduate courses, or later. I vote for later. And I agree with much of what Kevin writes.

  4. Kevin O'Brien Says:

    “It is very important to distinguish between training and education.”

    I probably am being loose with formal terms. I use the words interchangably to descibe the development of a person’s knowledge/skills set, even though there are probably key differences.

    Also I think that getting some short-course type qualifications, such as the ECDL , can have a motivating and empowering effect on “early stage career developers” , building up their self confidence when their CV gets that little bit more beefed up, and so forth .


  5. Oops! I see the problem: There should have been a space at the end of the link address. Without it the bracket and the word “often” are included in the address.

    Here you go:

    http://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/increased-emphasis-on-vocational-education-is-a-pretty-bad-idea-now/


  6. […] Earlier this week I looked at the data, as much as there is, on graduate unemployment in Ireland, based on figures released for […]


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