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Why The Kids Aren't Alright
The downturn has hurt everyone. But it’s Ireland’s younger generation that is truly bearing the brunt of the wastefulness of the Celtic Tiger years. For many the future boils down to a choice between emigrating or working a ‘shitty’ job, no matter how well qualified they may be. We asked 3rd year students of Visual Communications in Athlone Institute of Technology to reflect in images on what the future holds. Valerie Flynn also spoke to a number of recent graduates.
Valerie Flynn, 31 Mar 2010
“It’s no country for young men or women,” according to a recent Sunday newspaper headline. This was accompanied by a poll indicating that 60% of people think Ireland has nothing to offer students graduating in the next few years. “Are we heading back to the 1980s?” asks another newspaper headline. One political party is busily touting an economic policy document promising ‘Hope for a Lost Generation’.
So is the country’s doom and gloom-o-meter in crazy overdrive or does Ireland really have a “lost” generation on its hands?
As of September 2009, there were at least 74,000 people out of work and under the age of 25. A quarter of the population aged between 20 and 24 is neither working nor studying.
The figures for youth unemployment are particularly striking because this is the best educated generation in Irish history. Back in the day, university education was for only the privileged few. In 1964, there were 18,000 students in Irish colleges; last year, there was over eight times that number, 147,000 (although the recent grade inflation controversy has called into question the quality of the education many students are receiving).
“If there’s a job where they’re looking for five specific things, and I have four of the five things, I won’t be looked at. They probably have 200 other people to choose from,” says microbiology graduate Caitríona Monaghan (25).
Caitríona has a research masters in pathology, but with so many science graduates hunting for so few jobs – many of them older and with plenty of industry experience –the search is increasingly frustrating.
“I’m getting really nervous. Previously, I was thinking of going back and doing a H.Dip [higher diploma] for secondary education. Then you hear rumours that they’re going to be cutting hours for student teachers and new teachers.
“I can go in the direction of getting something non-relevant [to science] and in the next few months,” she adds. “That’s probably what’s going to happen. I might try and upskill, Maybe do a FÁS course in basic office administration. However, there are so many skilled people already.”