Graduate emigration?

Earlier this week I looked at the data, as much as there is, on graduate unemployment in Ireland, based on figures released for those who graduated in 2008. Also during this week we have been hearing quite a bit about graduate emigration. On Monday the Irish Times reported on a protest outside the Cork constituency office of Minister for Enterprise Trade and Innovation, Batt O’Keeffe TD, organised by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI); and the Irish Independent has been assessing the case of Carol Flannery, an archeology graduate from Mayo who has been unable to find work and who is planning to emigrate to America or Australia.

We need to be careful that we are not building up a sense of crisis regarding emigration based solely on anecdotes. Some graduates will always emigrate, and that is not necessarily a bad thing as we need to ensure that at least some people with world class skills are internationally mobile. Even in good times some will find it hard to get employment at home, and for returning graduates some international experience will be good for them and ultimately for the rest of us. On the other hand, it is obviously important that many or most of those who have been educated in Ireland stay here and help to build up our society and economy.

But where is the correct balance? In the end I suspect that there is no good answer to this, and that in any case this is not a problem which can be remedied in any specific way beyond measures to stimulate economic growth. Although I feel sympathy for those who feel they must leave Ireland to find employment and who would really prefer to stay, I am not sure what the protestors at Batt O’Keeffe’s office actually wanted him to do. And as for Ms Flannery, I have always understood archeology to be a highly international profession in which mobility is the norm; I doubt that current economic conditions would be the major factor in the availability of employment in Ireland for archeologists.

On the other hand of course, we must aim never to return to the situation in the 1970s and 1980s, when often a significant majority of a graduating class could expect to be emigrating. To avoid a return to that, we must do what is necessary to return the economy to health.

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15 Comments on “Graduate emigration?”

  1. kevin denny Says:

    Actually, as far as I know current economic conditions have a major impact on the demand for archeologists. The construction boom, specifically road building, caused a big increase in the number of jobs for archeologists as the builders were required to check that there was nothing of historic significance in the way of the construction. It was a potentially tricky situation for the archeologists since their employers were generally very keen that they did not find anything worthy of preservation: it could slow down their plans considerably.
    As road construction winds down, I would expect job losses for that profession.

  2. Vincent Says:

    I doubt it Kevin. That profession was run on a slightly up-market navvy outside the crown in Kilburn system, where contracts were for small sections of any road project.

    Why though is FvP drawing many of his references from the Nindy

    • Al Says:

      There were plenty of archealogy on the N/M roadworks and while not many people got rich from it, people got plenty of experience.

      But if people chose it in uni based on an expectation of future income then this needs study.
      There is a need in 2nd level for a study of long term economic trends so that students while choosing what their heart tells them, also do so with a slice of reason.
      Perhaps some type of learning portfolio that develops or aids a smart choice.

      • Vincent Says:

        There was plenty of work for a long time, that was not my point. The point is that the fellow with the camel hair brush would have been far better off working for Tedcastles pushing a petrol pump.
        Or to put it another way, you had better hope that your partner went in the direction of Accountancy for there isn’t even a Cnuas in your future to feed your tow-haired sprigs.

      • kevin denny Says:

        The requirement to have archeological assessments for roadworks is made by the government: I am reasonably sure that significant number of archeologists were employed on major construction projects.

        Yes Al, students do seem to choose their fields irrationally. They put too much emphasis on current data hence they are avoiding architecture and banking like the plague. I suspect parents have a lot to do with it & I would have thought that Career Guidance teachers should try prevent that. I agree something needs to be done. Meanwhile our Brilliant Minister is saying “there is no alternative”.

        • Kevin O'Brien Says:

          “students do seem to choose their fields irrationally”
          Absolutely! some even just put down random the CAO form, and just take what they get offered.

          An important point is whether or not disincentives should be put in place for courses that are very specific to a chosen field, and conversely promoting more generalized degrees like Maths.
          (Generalized meaning the variety of fields one can work in afterwards)

          Specifically for the 18 year old school leavers who aren’t too sure about what to do in life, which I suspect a substantial proportion.

        • Al Says:

          Perhaps if each subject carried a weight measured against the course you seek.
          PHD project there for someone.

          Also a course for post inter(?) cert students should be mandatory whereby they are presented with historical cao trends against historical economic consequences of particular vocations facilitated with some type of mentor or industry reporting (without the hymnsheets).
          By being presented with such information, and providing a development of a rational 3rd level choice there will be economic benefit where students only have to do the whole third level thing once…

  3. Vincent Says:

    I’m sorry, but the real field of potential expansion is theology, again. The entire Christian spectrum has many openings.

  4. Kevin O'Brien Says:

    There are job oppurtunities in Ireland. Have a look at There seems to be loads of IT jobs.

    Evidently there is a mismatch between the skills base currently produced and the needs of the workforce.

    Anybody, who went into a computer science degree ten years ago, against conventional opinion at the time, must be in a great position right now.

    I propose we steer some of the upcoming graduate class into IT graduate diploma programs, rather than see them emigrate.

  5. Niall Says:

    Most degrees provide a general education not specific training. What jobs do most graduates of English History or Zoology, for example, end up doing? What route do they take to get there? How long do they stay in the same career path? How does this change(if at all)in a downturn?

    Answers, anyone? Whatever the answers are, they will probably be different in 10 years time.

    • Vincent Says:

      English History or Zoology.
      Personally, I’ve always hoped ‘shooting’ was involved. Someplace. And I’ve encountered more than a few with an ERII Commission nailing some blonde bint a tick or two West of Windsor with just such a Degree.

  6. Kevin O'Brien Says:

    “Most degrees provide a general education not specific training.” That is debatable. Actually I am not quite sure what you mean. Necessarily most of the course content is relevant to one particular field of study.

    At the core of most Arts degrees is the need to develop, critique, and express ideas. The university education develops that skill, a very useful skill in almost every walk of life. If that is what you mean, then I agree.
    If you are unsure about what you want to do in life at 18, doing an Arts degree, and then getting a Grad diploma in business or IT is as good a strategy as any.
    An analysis of the degrees of those doing MBAs would be interesting.

  7. iainmacl Says:

    Do what you are passionate about and get the most out of the intellectual challenge and experience.

    That’s the best advice and makes for the best learners. Nothing worse than someone being steered into a degree programme because of ‘rational’ choice based around work and employment. Do well in whatever you choose to do and demonstrate your capabilities and potential that way.

  8. Kevin O'Brien Says:

    I used to work in the arts industry. Obviously people go into that field, because of the love of the work: film TV, theatre and music. The social aspect is good, the financial reward isn’t as near good unfortunately.

    To get by in that field, one needs to develop their professional skills in a number of areas: Accountancy, HR management, Professional communications, legal affairs, IT skills Marketing and so forth.

    So yes, do something you would love, Classical history or whatever, but also be prepared to obtain the skill sets necessary for succeeding in that field.

  9. it jobs are very much in demand these days because of technology boom’*-

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