Irish workers most overqualified in EU

“Misplaced snobbery” of parents obsessed with their children attending third-level cited as a central reason

  Irish workers are the most overqualified in the European Union for the jobs they are currently working in, according to figures from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).  

The figures show that 1 in 3 workers in Ireland are at least one educational level above the international norm for their chosen occupation, which is almost twice the levels in countries such as Finland, Sweden and France.

In a response to these figures, which were gathered between 2000 and 2011, Michael Moriarty, General Secretary of Education and Training Boards Ireland, said that the level of students attending third-level is too high. Moriarty suspects that many students “shouldn’t be there at all in the first place”.

About 60% of school-leavers in Ireland progress to third-level education, one of the highest figures in the EU, according to The Irish Times. Moriarty believes the large numbers attending third level education may lay in the “misplaced snobbery” of parents obsessed with their children attending third-level.

“Students’ aptitudes should determine their learning pathway, rather than an automatic assumption that they should go to third-level”, Moriarty stated.

Moriarty maintains apprenticeships are changing, with a growth of apprenticeships in areas such as insurance and marketing, and that that parents are not aware of this. He noted that in Germany apprenticeships and other forms of further education are hugely popular, with a small figure attending third-level.

Dr. Graham Love, Chief Executive of the Higher Education Authority, offers a different outlook. He believes that the high figures of people progressing to third-level should be celebrated. Higher education goes “well beyond preparing people for jobs”, Love told The Irish Times.

Dr. Love also said that graduates may be “overeducated” for their current employment, but their experiences will become beneficial in their later careers.

Ibec, an employers’ group, said that firms are looking at applicants’ skills rather than their qualifications. Tony Donohue, Ibec’s Head of Education and Social Policy, said these skills can be developed at all levels of education.

“Traditionally, Irish society has placed too much value on the traditional academic model of attainment, which doesn’t serve all young people well,” he said. Donohue believes that a system needs to be sets up with multiple routes of progression as people learn in many different ways.

“We should equip students for what can be a long journey to rewarding employment and fulfilling lives in a future environment whose demands we can neither anticipate nor predict,” he said.