Is Young Irish Talent Leaving? A Student Perspective

The Climate in Dublin, Ireland

The Irish job market is currently booming — unemployment rates are at a low of 5.2% (source). This is very good news for university students emerging into the job market. Dublin is also a hub for big multinational firms, a lot of which promote graduate programs or employ university graduates. With so many choices for these student, companies hiring have a tough time acquiring them amidst all their competitors. In such high competition it may seem that the pool of the particularly talented students are spread thin between all the companies hiring. A question then presents itself, is Ireland lacking top talent to supply to these companies? If so, why and is there anything companies can do to ensure they receive the brightest graduates in their recruitment process?

What do the Students Think?

Being a third-year computer science and business student at Trinity College Dublin, I have listened keenly to student opinion around campus and gathered what current students think about all of this. The general consensus is that Dublin is a good place for working and starting your career — a lot of people are excited to be going out and trying to get a position in a big firm. However, a lot of the students have other ideas for the future. A common trend of wanting to emigrate abroad to pursue careers elsewhere is evident. After working hard to earn good grades students look for their careers worldwide not just where they are currently based. This presents a challenge for companies in Ireland as they no longer have to compete with other firms in the country, but also globally. Even if a company has offices in multiple countries, their local Ireland office needs to meet its recruitment needs. It can be useful to understand why a lot of students choose to emigrate and what can be done to attract them to stay.

Why Are Students Leaving?

As mentioned previously, students have a lot of options when choosing a place to work after graduating. Everything is turning into a global economy — you can now get your electronics directly from China and you can also go from Ireland to California for your career. But why would students leave? I have identified 3 main reasons for seeking a career abroad in places like California, Toronto or Sydney.

  1. Money — the median salary for a software developer in Ireland is circa €35,000 (source) compared to Australia of circa $70,000 (source) and again compared to the USA of approximately $100k (source). This trend stays true across many industries and careers.
  2. Lifestyle — Living in Ireland is great: people are very friendly, you can get around easily and there’s a great sense of community. However, there is a theme of lush and glamour about moving away to a big city. The big buildings, the change in weather, the shift in atmosphere. For a lot of students this is something that they want to chase and be a part of.
  3. Opportunity — Whether this point is founded or not, there is definitely an opinion that there is more opportunity for building a career abroad. There are many more options for companies, bigger geographic to work in and making your mark on the world by coming into a big city from a relatively small place like Dublin. Big things happen in big cities (generally) and many students wish to be in the centre of it all.

There is a distinct pulling force attracting young graduates to leave Ireland for a different location. In my findings, money is a huge factor for most students. The salary differences across geographies is astounding and can push students to make the transition abroad.

What Can Companies Do?

So, what can companies in Ireland do? It seems that the offer of working abroad is superbly enticing. However, companies can level the playing field by taking a few steps to ensure that top talent wants to work for them and stay in Ireland.

Pay candidates more money. This is an obvious one — if the compensation package in Ireland matches the salary of a comparable position abroad then it would eliminate a key incentive of going abroad for work. Closing the wage gap between similar positions in different geographies would help a lot. According to an analyst in Deloitte based in Ireland will make approximately €31,000 per annum, compared to a business analyst based in New York earning $73,000.

Create a fun and attractive working environment. Lifestyle is very important for most people. If candidates see offices which are fun, modern and with a positive work culture, it can truly push them to join. If a company can match the work spaces of their international counterparts, then graduates will see that life wouldn’t be that different abroad. You cannot change the lifestyle in Dublin/outside of the office. But you can impact the lifestyle in the office.

Allow for role progression. No grad wants to go into a role that will not allow them to advance. They want to progress and move forward. Facilitating this and emphasising it at early stages in recruitment can be a big incentive for many grads. Working abroad can pale in comparison to the opportunity of advancing through an organisation and having hard work recognised. This does not mean to give promotions prematurely but placing an emphasis on recognising and rewarding outstanding contributions.

The Reckoning

Top students and grads are looking abroad for post-university opportunities. In the current work climate in Ireland students have a lot of incentives to move away. With so much potential outside of Ireland, moving to a big city can be an enticing proposition. Due to this global outlook of recent grads and students, companies may see a need of investing additional efforts to attract grads to stay in the country and try to match the pay, lifestyle and opportunity which work abroad can offer. Is this a necessary step? Does Ireland have all the talent it needs to continue growth as it stands? It is something companies may have to start to consider in the coming years.