How strong is the Irish economy?

The CSO’s latest Labour Force Survey indicates that the number of working-age adults in employment increased by 68,600 or 2.7 per cent to 2,574,500 last year. This is more than 200,000 higher than total employment before the pandemic in 2019.

This growth is reflected in the exponential growth in corporation profits tax, particularly in the multinational sector, which has continued uninterrupted throughout 2022, and into the first quarter of 2023.

The sectors with the largest percentage increases in employment were the administrative and support service activities (up 15.2 per cent or 14,500 people) and the transportation and storage sector (up 7.1 per cent or 7,500).

Average weekly earnings rose in seven of 13 economic sectors that are measured with the largest increase recorded in the Transportation and Storage sector (8.0 per cent), the Professional, Scientific and Technical Activities sector (5.9 per cent) and the industry sector (4.5 per cent).

Average weekly earnings for the period rose by 9.3 per cent while Gross Domestic Product growth for Quarter 4 in 2022 stands at 3.5 per cent.

These strong employment numbers and GDP growth coincide with a steep decline in unemployment, which fell to 4.2 per cent (112,000), the lowest level since 2005, and a level that economists suggest is close to full employment in the Irish economy.

How to use education to maximise your potential in a dynamic economy

There could hardly be a better time to strategically plan your entry into the labour market following such extraordinary growth.

Many who have progressed through the education system in recent years or who exited the employment market over the two years of the Covid-19 pandemic will now be looking to hone their existing skills base.

As in any increasingly competitive jobs market, it is always worth considering what sets you apart from other candidates when applying for a job.

A further engagement with education as a way of entering the labour market or in diversifying into other areas of economic activity, rather than returning to the role they held before the pandemic, will be an obvious option for many.

Undertaking a postgraduate programme is one way of doing that.


Undertaking a level nine or 10 postgraduate option is quite a commitment and will take time and money to complete. However, those completing a postgrad will have the advantage of adding a new set of cross-sectoral skills that will complement their CV and enhance their employability.

There is increasing confluence between sectors such as information and communications technology (ICT), business and engineering, which were once considered to be unique disciplines in their own right. ICT permeates almost all sectors of the economy and, similarly, strong business skills are relevant across many sectors.

Accounting firms don’t only hire accountants – they are also on the lookout for marketing, IT and engineering graduates. Arts and journalism graduates who can bring communications and social media skills are sought after by firms who need to expand their social media and online presence.

Data analytics is now the fastest-growing skill in demand, and this is likely to continue in the years ahead. The combination of data and marketing skills is perhaps the most highly sought-after combination.

With so many now working from home on a mix of company-owned devices along with their own equipment, there is an increased demand for dedicated cybersecurity functions within companies.

Evolving IT security threats, as seen with the cyberattack on the HSE in 2021, and Munster Technological University in recent weeks magnified by the long-term shift to working from home and the corresponding need for greater data protection, is feeding demand for IT security roles.

Ever-increasing investment in web- based services has created a major skills shortage for software developers with experience in Java, NET, Python, Ruby on Rails and Scala, in particular.

The intersection between finance and technology has undergone a huge shift, which is changing the face of the financial services landscape. As with all sectors of our economy, Covid-19 has accelerated this movement of financial services into the online world, as exemplified by the exponential growth of services such as banking services company Revolut.

With dozens of Irish start-ups operating in this area, the expectation is for significant growth in the coming years. The opportunities for hybrid professionals – graduates with skills spanning financial services and technology – will continue to increase as the finance and technology sector sees more collaboration between Government, education and industry sectors.

There are abundant opportunities for graduates with large financial institutions and smaller global tech companies operating in the financial sphere as traditional companies work towards adapting to the rise of finance and technology.

Skill overlaps

There are increasing overlaps in the skillsets required across different sectors and job roles. In addition to sector-specific skills, cross-sectoral employability skills are increasingly being sought by employers. These include people skills, critical/ analytical thinking skills, management skills and creativity, design and innovation, entrepreneurialism, team-working, communications and business acumen. Sought-after skills also include ICT and foreign languages.

One skill that comes with the acquisition of foreign languages is cultural awareness – something that will be vitally important in developing our markets in a post-Brexit environment.

Languages currently in demand include German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and the Nordic languages. There is a growing demand for Mandarin as Ireland rapidly expands its trade in goods and services with China. With the inclusion of Irish as a full working language of the EU from January 2022, there are also growing opportunities for graduates with proficiency in Gaeilge.


For both undergraduates and postgrads there may be a gap between the skills employers are looking for and the skills you will be leaving college with shortly. Bridging this gap is a central focus of the Government through the Springboard+ programme.

Springboard is a strategy that targets funding of free higher education courses to enable jobseekers to upskill or reskill in areas where there are identified labour market skills shortages or employment opportunities.

Springboard courses range from levels six to nine on the National Framework of Qualifications. Courses are delivered in areas such as ICT, manufacturing, international financial services, hospitality, and entrepreneurial/business start-up skills. Work placements are offered on almost all of the courses.

The ICT skills conversion programme is targeted at jobseekers who already hold a level eight or equivalent qualification and have the capacity and underlying aptitude, to undergo an intensive full-time programme of study and work experience, to acquire honours degree level ICT programming skills. The ICT skills conversion programme is also available to eligible participants on a part-time, two-year option.

Springboard courses and the ICT skills conversion programme are now run as a joint initiative under the banner brand Springboard+. No fees are charged to participants. Springboard, which incorporates Springboard courses and the full-time and part-time ICT skills conversion programme, provides for 9,266 places on 288 courses in public and private educational institutions throughout Ireland.

All courses selected for funding under Springboard are in areas of identified enterprise skills needs. Courses were selected, following a competitive call for proposals, by an independent evaluation panel using published criteria that included value for money, flexible delivery, engagement with industry and skills relevance.

Springboard+ expanded the eligibility criteria to include homemakers and those in employment, including those in self-employment who wish to upskill, reskill, or cross-skill in the biopharma/medtech sector and those in employment, or self-employment in the ICT sector who wish to upskill from a level seven to a level eight qualification.

To date, more than 35,000 free higher education places have been provided under Springboard+.

Further information on Springboard+, including entry requirements and eligibility criteria, are available on the dedicated information and applications website: Applications are submitted online and decisions around the award of places on the programmes are a matter for individual course providers.

Graduate recruitment and training

Every year dozens of companies, across a wide range of sectors, recruit graduates and postgraduates. The larger companies typically have graduate training programmes in place. They recruit graduates who can demonstrate strong academic ability, but who may have limited or even no experience of the world of work.

A graduate training programme is a way of bridging this gap by easing new entrants into the world of work and equipping them with the necessary skills required by the organisation.

Graduate training programmes tend to be up to two years long. Some will offer opportunities in different areas of the business before settling on a specific career area within the company.

These programmes offer the opportunity to learn on the job, gain experience and earn some money at the same time. Graduate training programmes can be a significant stepping stone to a permanent job.

Examples of graduate recruitment positions currently offered by some of Ireland’s leading companies are listed on the website.

Even in the depths of Covid-19 restrictions, firms such as Kerry Group, Future Force, Google, Analog Devices, Aviva, IBM, SIG and AppDynamics were seeking postgraduates for training roles in supply chain management, R&D, business development, cloud technology, engineering roles in network, software, construction, financial reporting etc.

The Careers Portal website – – also carries high-quality, up-to-date data on graduate opportunities.