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Skills-Building for Students

Writes Elisha Carey Features Editor

Times are truly a-changing: industries that didn’t even exist 20 years ago, now dominate the economic sphere and have redesigned our concept of the “typical worker.” Your parents’ advice of “just walk in with your CV and ask for the manager” is no longer cutting it and “proficiency in Word” is just assumed by most employers. 

The Irish Times has named ICT (Information and Computer Technology), Pharmaceuticals, Finance and Climate Change as the sectors most likely to grow in Ireland in the next decade. This growth will demand new skills from the workforce like languages, business skills and general tech-savviness. I don’t like the look of the competition, either. The World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report 2018 predicted that by 2025, the machine/human division of labour ratio will have increased so much that over half of the world’s labour will be done by machines. Accordingly, the WEF considers there will be a decline in demand for manual dexterity, endurance, memory, reading and writing skills and a growth in demand for technology monitoring and control, critical thinking, problem-solving, innovation, emotional intelligence, flexibility and creativity. 

Future Proof Skills

Information and Computer Technology

“The past 10 years have seen the emergence of new specialisms such as cloud computing, gaming, data analytics and artificial intelligence,” says Bernadette Walsh, guidance counsellor at CareersPortal.ie.

Tony Donohoe, the chairman of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs echoes the sentiments of the World Economic Forum in outlining the likely future demands of the Irish economy:  “The more people live in the online world, the more data they will generate. The ability to interpret is a key core competence, but this will also lead to jobs in creative industries and how to deploy new technologies.”


Brexit brings with it the need to diversify our export markets. Donohoe explains that “a lot of companies, especially smaller companies, did not see beyond the UK market, so language skills to connect us to other markets are important.”

He predicts a surge in demand for graduates with European languages (Spanish, French and German are much sought after) or Asian languages, particularly Chinese and Japanese.

Business skills

Closely allied to language skills, the Irish Times predict that international selling and market skills as well as supply chain management will remain important later in this decade.

While these aren’t the most futuristic of skills, business skills like marketing will remain essential as they cannot be automated (for the time being, at least.) Humans are needed to make decisions, steer advertising campaigns and close deals with other humans, 

So, robots may actually steal your job but it’s not too late! There are many ways to build up these skills (even during these *unprecedented times.*) 

Work Experience

Engaging in a period of work experience is perhaps the most obvious way to pick up new skills.

Work experience comes in all shapes and sizes, from volunteering to unpaid internships, to part-time jobs, that could be remote or on location. Whatever the experience, the positive benefits are the same – moulding yourself into an attractive and viable candidate to employers.  

  • International Work Experience

Goinglobal offers career and employment resources for jobs and internships abroad. Their database features country and city career guides including career guides for most cities in the US. Each career guide includes information on employment and industry trends, NGOs and volunteer organisations in that location, CV and cover letter-writing guidelines, work-permit and visa regulations, financial considerations, cultural advice and professional and social media groups. Through Goinglobal you’ll have access to crucial employer contact information for employers in over 196 countries.

  • Remote Work Experience

Having been a massive success for many companies over the summer it seems virtual work opportunities for students are here to stay!  Many of the traditional work placement and summer internship routes are now being offered as exclusively online experiences. Law firms, tech companies and financial institutions among many others all took on students for virtual work in recent months. This type of work experience will help you gain invaluable skills for the future like flexibility and communication and all in a tech-facing environment. 

  • Volunteering

COVID-19 Volunteer opportunities are currently active nationwide, ranging from deliveries, to DIY, to house decoration for the elderly.  Volunteer Ireland represents hundreds of organisations and you can register or explore their excellent search engine to find opportunities to match your interests and skills. Volunteer Ireland also has a Professional Skills Share option for companies and businesses to provide professional skills in areas such as IT, Social Media, Marketing, HR, Leadership, Management etc. If you have a level of competency that you can share, why not get in contact with them? 

New Communities Partnership (NCP) is an independent national network of more than 150 immigrant-led groups comprising 65 nationalities with offices in Dublin and Cork with outreach to other cities and towns.  It is a rich information resource and has also links you to other voluntary agencies.

Skills Courses

Since the beginning of the pandemic many universities both here in Ireland and further afield have begun offering free online courses, some of which you can complete in a single day! There are hundreds of courses available online which are specifically designed to improve your IT capabilities, critical thinking and problem-solving skills as well as those in innovation and commercial acumen (take that robots!)  

A lot of these free courses give you actual diplomas or certificates upon completion which you can add to your CV. These can form a topic of conversation during an interview.  Remember a key new interview question will be “What did you do during the Covid-19 pandemic? Being able to tell employers that you used this time wisely shows resilience and innovation.

For more information on gaining experience and building new skills visit the UCC Career Services’ website at: https://www.ucc.ie/en/careers/