Saturday 26 November 2016
The Central Statistics Office, here in Ireland, has just released the October unemployment statistics which fit the steady downward trend from a 15% peak in 2012. That's 1/7th of the available workforce being on the the dole. The October 2016 figures show that number of useless mouths and wasted talent has been halved over the last 4 years. Indeed comparing last month to October 2015, there are nearly 30,000 netto more people back in work and most of them are full time. I guess we can take it from this that the recession is over and if people want to work they will find a suitable billet soon enough. That's the gloss, the more brutal reality is that youth employment is at a much lower rate and you're 2x likely to be out of work if you are under 25 than if you're a full adult. I just had an e-mail from the smartest boy in the room saying that he couldn't find a job in science and was thinking to invest €7,500 in a taught MSc - at least it would engage his mind.
That is an argument for going to college after school (or post-grad after college nowadays); because unless your Daddy or Uncle Jim can sort out a job for you, you may have to look long and hard before you land a job in the hospitality sector (pulling pints and cleaning toilets) or retail (stacking shelves in Aldi). If you're going to college because there is no work you may as well either a) enjoy your 3-4 years marking time or b) use it as an opportunity to up-skill, so that you wear a tie to work tell other people which shelves to stack. But which of the thousands of available courses do you choose? One way is to go to a careers fair and pick up brochures from several colleges and employers and use the event to talk to someone who works in a college / institute that is logistically feasible. If it takes two long unconnected bus journeys to go from college to home, you're probably not going to sign up . . . why, you'd have to do your own laundry at the weekend.
The Institute asked for volunteers to man their stand at a careers fair last week in the Function Hotel down the road. There was a hint of a free lunch, so naturally I signed up to talk to school leavers for a couple of hours between classes. It turned out that a) we were the nearest to the venue b) we had by far the biggest and most elaborately lit back-drop c) we had by far the largest number of people [wo]manning the stand. Lots of us [free lunch alert!] were prepared to travel for 3.5 minutes and hang out for an hour. Apart from the Gardai and the Army, there were a couple of dozen institutes of higher education. I know because I got tired of chatting to my The Institute colleagues and went for a scout around the rest of the ballroom to see who was there and what they did different from us. That's why they call it a careers fair not a job fair - college is an opportunity to stave off for another four years being a net contributor towards paying off Ireland's €23 billion of bank debt.
A lot of institutions had sent a single person and in many cases that person was slumped on a chair tricking about with a smart-phone. Presumably because they had no clients; but that demeanour is going to ensure no punter-interest so makes the whole exercise a waste of time and money. At least The Institutistas were all upright. I stopped by the DCU stand briefly because they had free pens and it's a long time since I was at a medical conference to replenish the stationery. I said that our pens were crap which was a sorry indictment of / metaphor for the quality of the education / technology we offered. Ms DCU otoh swore that DCU pens were The Biz: why she'd written herself through the Leaving Certificate with one. If she was now in college, that must have been a marathon of writing, so was an excellent indicator of pen-quality; and by implication DCU-quality The other person who was worked off her feet was a young post-graduate student representing my alma mammy TCD. She was working the crowd so hard and so on-her-own that I offered to shill for her and hand out some brochures. But she demurred - having too much fun, she said, and the buzz is mighty. The army and the police were also doing a land-office business - with both boys and girls.
Enrollments are directly linked to staffing numbers, so in a sense we are recruiting for our own jobs. But there's got to be more than bums-on-seats. If we can get one smart but havering student to sign with us rather than Some Other Place, that's an investment in our own happiness and sanity. So, if my time-table permits it at all, I go down to these events with my happy face on. I'd do it even if there was no free lunch . . . honest. The free lunch was a piece of chicken the size of my clenched fist with spuds and veg followed by an extensive art-work of chocolate, cheesecake and ice-cream. Rather more than my usual two-breadcrusts-and-a-slice-of-cheese lunch. Frankly, I've no idea how desk-johnnies stay awake in the afternoon with all that food to process. I came away 2kg and one pen heavier than I had been at breakfast: no need for dinner in the evening.