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Sep 032009

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Across the country thousands of student’s who’ve just accepted their place on a college or university course are eagerly awaiting the start of the new academic year. It herald the beginning of a brand new chapter in their lives as they enter third level education.

While this is a very exciting milestone, it can also be a daunting one. In the early days of college it can be difficult to find your feet, to get your bearings on- and off- campus, get your head around a completely new way of learning and coping with non-academic changes like living away from home and fending for yourself — which can be an adventure in itself.

Luckily, colleges and universities are well aware of the challenges faced by new students. Third level learning institutions want students to feel at home as quickly as possible, and often go out of their way to show newcomers the ropes and help them to settle into college life. Most places will issue every new student with a welcome pack before they arrive on campus, full of all the information they’ll need for their first few weeks of term: things like a guide to registration, important dates on the academic calendar, relevant contact details, maps of the campus, answers to the most frequently asked student questions and much more besides. So before term even starts students have the opportunity to familiarise themselves with their new environment.

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Sep 032009

A dearth of jobs and apprenticeship opportunities in Ireland has seen demand for post leaving cert (PLC) level courses sky-rocket this year, leaving school-leavers and redundant workers fighting it out for limited college places.

Institutions have been inundated with requests for courses, receiving on average around twice as many applications as there are places available. The demand, thought to be driven by a lack of alternative options in today’s workplace, has been described as unprecedented.

Demand in the PLC sector is also being boosted by an influx of disappointed third-level applicants who didn’t receive an offer of a college place through the the over-subscribed CAO system this year, which also fielded a record number of applications.

In all there were 78,982 applications to the CAO this year, an increase of 7.5% on 2008, and as of last week a total of 44,481 places had been accepted. Further education colleges report that they have processed 60,000 applications for the 31,688 PLC places they have available with a number of colleges reporting a significant rise in the number of applications from mature students, echoing the increasing number of job losses.

Aug 192009
Lifelong Learning

Image by Stephen Downes via Flickr

"Lifelong learning" has become something of a buzzword in recent years.

According to the politicians it’s one of the "key drivers" for "upskilling the workforce" so they can participate in the new "knowledge economy". Buzz, buzz, and more buzz.…

But behind the rhetoric and weasel words of modern political dialogue there’s a serious message trying to break through. It’s simply this: you’re never too old to learn, and learning can and will enhance your life in all sorts of ways… perhaps not just in the areas you expect.

For some adults the decision to return to learning isn’t an easy one to make. Having been compelled to learn through the formal education system, they decide that learning perhaps isn’t for them. Children have a natural curiosity to explore and absorb the world around them — a catalyst for learning that seems absent in many adults, or if not absent then subconsciously subdued. Returning to education years, perhaps decades after leaving the formal education system can feel awkward, unnatural… perhaps even a little frightening. But legions of adult learners attest to the fact that it’s well worth stepping briefly outside your comfort zone to experience the benefits learning can bring.

The really crucial distinction between learning as an adult and learning in school is that as an adult nobody’s forcing you to sit down and listen to something you have little interest in. You’re there because you want to learn, not because somebody else dictates that you have to — and believe it or not that makes all the difference in the world.

AONTAS, the National Adult Learning Organisation, believes there are plenty of reasons why Adult Education is vital to the country, the community, families and individuals. They maintain that people who have an opportunity to continually learn and develop their skills and capacities:

  • Make our economy grow and develop
  • Ensure that their children develop a love of learning and take full advantage of education
  • Actively participate in their own communities and civil society
  • Support and respect people with different cultural beliefs and abilities
  • Respect and protect the environment for future generations
  • Nurture creativity and imagination
  • Live healthy and fulfilled lives

There’s another reason that they don’t list, but that’s crucially important: learning new things is fun, whatever your age.

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Aug 052009
Academic procession at the :en:University of C...

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In general third level graduates are doing better than average in a very tough jobs market, says a study by the University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG), but the survey also shows significant variation between degree disciplines. With national unemployment rates approaching 12%, the University revealed that only 8% of the 2,300 or so graduates from the NUIG’s class of 2008 were still looking for work.

The University carried out the research from six to nine months after graduation, and had a healthy response rate of 62%. Over half of those respondents (c. 51%) had elected to pursue a postgraduate qualification, up from 49% last year and continuing a steadily rising trend. Of those available for work, one in every six NUIG science graduates (c. 16.5%)  was still trying to find a job, while for arts graduates the figure was one in 10 (10%), and a quarter of all law graduates were still looking for a position, although the vast majority of law graduates reported they had opted to further their studies.

Graduates most likely to be working were those with degrees in medicine and other health related disciplines, with 95% of respondents reporting they had secured employment.

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Jul 212009
Hourglass Shadow

Image by Brooks Elliott via Flickr

Time is an elusive commodity. Making effective use of your time can have a profound effect on your career and on your life in general, but unless you manage it carefully time can slip away almost without you noticing.

Consequently, time management is one of the biggest challenges in today’s workplace. Taking control of your time really could be the catalyst that will help you to achieve what you want in life, and you’ll find countless books, courses, systems and strategies out there to help you. Meanwhile, try these simple suggestions to start you on the road to increased personal productivity and success.

  • Plan your work: spending ten to fifteen minutes at the start or end of each day planning your work will help you to focus on what’s important.
    Deal with routine more effectively: examine the routine tasks you do every day with a critical eye. Can they be streamlined at all? Could some be minimised, or even eliminated altogether? You’ll be amazed how much cumulative time you can save by shaving a few precious minutes off your routine tasks.
  • Don’t waste time waiting: we all spend time waiting – waiting for appointments, waiting for the train or bus, waiting in traffic. Use that time constructively to catch up with some reading, or to work out how to move things forward on an important project.

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Jul 132009

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Written by Philip Crosbie, The Irish Institute of Chinese Studies, UCC

(Edited for Career Moves by Calvin Jones)

Why on earth would you want to learn Chinese?

A few years ago if you’d mentioned you were going to study the culture and language of the most populous country on earth that would have been a common response. Until relatively recently our only exposure to Chinese culture was a sanitised western version of its cuisine, and kung fu films! China, for many of us, still resonates as a distant frontier, somewhere only the most intrepid of travellers would venture: a mysterious cocktail of very different peoples, alien cultures and a cripplingly complex language.

But open any newspaper, magazine or current affairs website and you can’t help but notice another news story from what has become arguably the most dynamic and fastest changing society in the world. Whether it is culture, politics or economics, China continues to change apace, and its change that has impact on a global scale. Our little island on the periphery of northern Europe may seem a world away, but for the Irish economy and Irish business, change in China really matters!

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Jul 062009
Image of euro coinage

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(Written by Professor Ciaran Murphy (Business Information Systems, UCC)
edited for Career Moves by Calvin Jones

Per head of population Ireland has the unique distinction of being the biggest exporter of services in the world today by quite a margin. That may sound like an extraordinary fact, but it’s exactly what Forfas, Ireland’s national policy advisory body for enterprise and science, says in its report "Catching the Wave – A Services Strategy for Ireland", and is a testament to the efforts of Enterprise Ireland and the IDA in attracting investment in to the sector.

The services sector spans a gamut of service-based industries that include Financial Services; Computer Services and Software; Healthcare Services; Education Services; Tourism; Creative and design services; Maritime Services; Transport; Bloodstock & agriculture; Engineering, Environmental & Architectural Services; Business Services; Professional & Consulting Services; and Research & Development Services. Together these industries contribute a massive 63% of added value to the national economy.

In the decade between 1997 and 2007, the gross value added in the Irish economy almost trebled from €60 billion to €170 billion. Two thirds of that growth was attributed to the services sector, where the value added figure rose from €34 billion to €108 billion.

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