We find out about some of the options available if you’re navigating a big career change this year.
The Irish Government began January 2022 with some words of encouragement for people looking to change careers or upskill.
Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, advised people to visit Government hub The Right Course. This online resource was launched last January as part of the Government’s effort to gather all the disparate State-funded education and training options into one place.
It has information on apprenticeships, training courses, third-level courses, upskilling resources for employers as well as supports for unemployed people. Since its launch, The Right Course has been one of the most-viewed non-Covid-related campaigns on the Government’s website, suggesting that career paths are very much on people’s minds.
Harris said the hub gives people a “clear picture of what is on offer, how they can access it and the supports available”. He acknowledged that “there are so many options out there” but the system is “complex and can overburden some people”.
One of the resources listed on the Right Course web page is the Adult Educational Guidance and Information Service (AEGI) under the Career Guidance and Information section. The AEGI offers free, confidential career advice to anyone who needs it, however it prioritises those who are not in employment.
SiliconRepublic.com spoke to Nuala Kilgannon, who works with the AEGI through Galway and Roscommon Education and Training Board (GRETB). She is one of several counsellors employed by the 16 regional Education and Training Boards across the country.
Kilgannon said that when she offers advice to people, her starting point is always them “as an individual”.
“We look at your interests, your previous education, your current employment, or previous employment, your long-term plans and goals, and then try to assist you to try and figure out what might suit you,” she said, adding that based on what she’s told, she then points people to whatever options that might be suitable for them anywhere in Ireland.
‘Many people are seeking new careers and others realise they need new skills in their current roles’
– SIMON HARRIS, TD
So, where has she pointed people to in the past? She mentioned the State-subsidised third-level Springboard courses, subsidised employee upskilling schemes, and even non-subsidised third-level courses if the person she’s advising is in the financial position to take a career break.
“A huge aspect of it is giving the client as much information as possible so that they can make an informed choice,” Kilgannon explained. “There are so many different things out there, it’s very confusing.”
A lot of the time, Kilgannon said she finds herself giving advice to people with Level 8 honours degrees who are confused by the tangle of websites “all doing slightly different things”.
There’s also the added dimension of the colleges – public and private – wanting to recruit people to do courses that may not be in their best interests.
Sometimes enthusiastic recruitment methods can lead to prospective students being subject to “misinformation” either through misreading or a lack of proper awareness on the student’s part. This can lead to disappointment, Kilgannon said. For example, she noted that not many people know it is possible to apply as a mature student to any Irish university after the age of 23.
Another resource to be aware of is Solas, which is the Government agency behind many of the free and subsidised programmes on offer in the Right Course hub. The programmes include the online learning platform eCollege, apprenticeship programmes, upskilling programmes and traineeships.
Solas also runs Skills to Compete, which is focused on helping people who have lost jobs as a result of the pandemic to upskill and re-enter the labour market. The Skills to Advance programme, meanwhile, was launched in 2019 to provide subsidised training to SME employees.
A spokesperson for Solas said the organisation has focused a lot on connecting employers with talent in an effort to lessen some of the skills gaps impacting certain industries. Tech sectors, in particular, are suffering from severe skills shortages.
There are currently 23,000 apprentices registered on 62 national apprenticeship programmes in sectors ranging from biopharma, ICT and financial services to engineering, electrical and construction.
For the tech industry, the idea that apprenticeships can provide fast, practical training to people seems to be gaining traction. More than 8,500 employers in Ireland are now using Solas’ apprenticeship schemes as a talent pipeline, and Solas hopes to double this number over the coming years.
Links to further education and apprenticeship options have been included on the CAO platform for the first time this year so school leavers can find out more about different routes. Most apprenticeships take about six to 20 months to complete.
As Kilgannon said, university isn’t necessarily the right option for everybody. Just because “little Johnny down the road” goes to university, doesn’t mean it will be a good fit for all of us.
SiliconRepublic.com asked Solas for its predictions on the jobs and trends that would be most in demand for 2022. The agency’s spokesperson pointed to the organisation’s National Skills Bulletin from 2021, which called for more talent in the digital and ICT sectors.
The pandemic has driven demand up for workers with tech skills across all industries. It has also forced people to rethink their career paths overall.
As Harris said, the past few years have “forced us to confront many things for ourselves and in the Irish economy… Many people are seeking new careers and others realise they need new skills in their current roles.”
Making a decision about your career can be daunting, especially with the amount of information out there. If this is the year you do decide to upskill, retrain or change career, contact your local guidance counsellor to chat through your options. They are happy to answer quick questions over email or arrange face-to-face sessions.
To do this, visit the website of your regional ETB and contact the guidance information officer who will put you in touch with a counsellor.
Whether you just need a course name clarified or a little extra push to learn something new, there are people there to help – and the help doesn’t have to come at any extra cost. Best of luck for the year ahead.
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