Choosing the right career direction as CAO deadline looms

Una Halligan, Chair, Expert Group on Future Skills Needs shares her advice for students as the CAO 1st February application deadline approaches.

At this time of year many students are thinking about their career options and the courses of education or training that they should follow to pursue that career.

Choosing a career is an important decision in a young person’s life and so this can be a stressful time for students and for their parents alike. It is important, therefore, for students to inform themselves as much as possible about their options in order to make the best choices.

Parents can support and encourage their children to explore the many options available and to gather as much information as possible before reaching a final decision on which career or course to pursue. Even if CAO applications have been submitted, there is still an opportunity for applicants to change their courses up to 1st July.

Where will the jobs of the future be?

A key question for students deciding on a career direction is where the jobs might be in the future, and what course of study might be best to enhance their career prospects. The role of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) is to identify the current and emerging skills needs of the economy. The Group’s research provides information which can be useful in identifying where jobs are likely to arise and the types ofskills needed for those jobs. This information can help students to make an informed choice about their career options.

All of the EGFSN’s reports are available on the skillsirelandwebsite. Short summaries are provided for all the reports. The good news is that as the economy recovers, almost all sectors are experiencing job growth.

Between now and 2020, the strongest employment growth is projected to occur in:

  • Sales and Customer Services
  • Construction
  • Science
  • Engineering
  • Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
  • Business and
  • Finance

Some of the occupations where skills are required across these areas include:

  • Architects and Surveyors
  • Accountants
  • Data Analysts
  • Engineers
  • Software Developers and
  • Scientists

ICT skills required across sectors and occupations

There are, increasingly, overlaps in the skills required across different sectors and occupations. For example, ICT skills are required not just in the Software sector, but across a range of sectors such as Financial Services, Shared Services and Retail.

Foreign language skills

There is also a strong demand for individuals with foreign language skills, and marketing and sales skills across a range of sectors as companies drive to increase their exports of goods and services and to expand into new markets. The languages in particular demand are German, French, Spanish and Italian. Mandarin and Portuguese are also increasingly in demand.

Generic skills 

In addition to a core expertise, it’s important to build a suite of genericskills to enhance employability. Feedback from companies is that they want individuals with the ability to work as part of flexible teams, beadaptable to change, think creatively and have the ability to problem-solve.

People-skills such as communication and team-working have become increasingly important to employers. Project work in college, work experience and extra-curricular activities can help to develop these skills.

Researching Courses

When it comes to choosing an area of study, a wide range of coursesexist, across many education and training providers. The Central Applications Office (CAO) system provides access to Third Level options in Universities and Institutes of Technology across the country.

Further Education colleges also offer a wide range of learning opportunities with good progression routes. Both Higher Education and Further Education courses are equally valid areas of study, depending on the career you wish to pursue.

CareersirelandQualifax  and CareersPortal are three websites which provide a range of useful information such as course listings, job profiles and career exploration.

Author: Francis O' Toole

Francis O' Toole is a Educational Psychotherapist & Guidance Counsellor. I set up this blog page to help students gain as much information as possible to be able to make right choices and decisions regarding their career options. I believe that we will be very successful in our careers if we follow what we enjoy.

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