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Sunday Business Post – Recruitment section – September 13 2009
Read the article on the Sunday Business Post website by clicking here.
By part-funding gap year style working trips around the world, the government could help recent graduates through the economic downturn and boost exchequer funds, according to the organiser of this year’s Working Abroad Expo.
Stephen McLarnon, managing director of expo organiser SGMC Group, which takes place later this month, called on the government to consider implementing a part-funded ‘pay-cation’ scheme to support younger job candidates with limited opportunities in the domestic labour market. Such a scheme would benefit the economy by building on the professional experience and skill-sets of younger candidates, and boosting the government’s coffers.
‘‘We are not advocating that the government completely fund a gap year, but offer a fund-matching system for those considering taking a gap year,” said McLarnon. ‘‘A gap-year matching scheme for under-25s, offering up to €5,000 per person within a 12-month period, would offer immediate savings to the growing social welfare bill, while also assisting young unemployed people to gain new experiences and return to Ireland with something to offer.
‘‘It would keep people active, which is crucial, and it would give people a taste of life in less-well-off countries.”
A similar government scheme, under consideration in Britain, is proposing to fund up to 500 participants in overseas development projects. Under the scheme, participants would be required to raise funding of stg£1,000 (€1,140) and pay for their own flights and vaccinations.
‘‘The fact that Britain is looking at something similar gives the concept credibility,” said McLarnon. ‘‘Similar precedents exist here in Ireland, with the ESB earlier this year taking on approximately 300 apprentice electricians to help them qualify. PwC has offered graduates €5,000 to defer their entry into the firm until 2010.”
If properly managed, McLarnon believes such a scheme could raise vital funds for the exchequer.
‘‘An unemployed person, under 30 years of age and currently receiving unemployment benefit, gets approximately €10,000 per annum,” he said. ‘‘A fund-matching system, capped at €5,000,would immediately save the exchequer €5,000 per person. The government could include a 12-month exclusion from receiving any further social welfare benefits for participants in the scheme.”
The British government is piloting a gap-year programme in association with Raleigh International, a charity specialising in voluntary overseas placements. An Irish equivalent could target Irish organisations with overseas connections, McLarnon said.
‘‘The Niall Mellon Township Trust has done a fantastic job in South Africa, but is now suffering with less available funds from volunteers,” he said. ‘‘The trust, the government and Fás could come together and use the project for training apprentice plumbers, electricians and brick-layers. It would get nearly qualified trades people off the dole, qualified under the instruction of qualified trades people who have also lost their job, while also doing something worthwhile.”
‘‘NGOs such as Concern and Goal are being badly affected by cuts to their overseas aid budget,” McLarnon said. ‘‘Many of these organisations are laying off staff and closing centres in much needed areas. The government could again part-fund professionals to work with these organisations while diverting them from the ever-growing dole queues.”
McLarnon said that there had been a significant increase in the number of Irish people looking abroad for work in recent months.
‘‘The number of young people travelling overseas has seen a substantial jump over the last 12 months, with a 33 per cent increase – an extra 5,500 people – in those going to Australia on working holiday visas,” he said. ‘‘This takes the number currently in Australia on annual working holiday visas to a record high of over 22,000. Figures for Canada, New Zealand and other countries are not available, but the total number could easily exceed a further 20,000.”
Other destinations also offer employment opportunities, McLarnon said.
‘‘Opportunities exist all over the world. There is an aging population in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, so they have to import a huge amount of labour,” he said. ‘‘The US is experiencing its own unemployment issues, but parts of Latin America such as Brazil are enjoying some growth.
‘‘Canada has avoided much of the financial crises and is very much open for business. Britain is largely expected to come out of recession in the coming weeks, joining Germany and France.”
McLarnon said that the healthcare sector, in particular, offered global opportunities for skilled Irish candidates.
‘‘Health recruitment has bucked the trend globally, except in Ireland, where the HSE is not renewing contracts and a recruitment freeze largely remains in place,” he said. ‘‘With this in mind, we have 11 British NHS trusts exhibiting at our show in Dublin in our dedicated medical and nursing zone. It is widely known that there is a surplus of nurses in Ireland, with overseas employers queuing up to recruit them.”
There is also overseas demand for qualified Irish engineering and technology professionals, said McLarnon.
‘‘Fisher & Paykel, the big home-appliance manufacturers, are exhibiting at our Dublin show, looking for all the various different types of engineers, including automotive and quality assurance people, for New Zealand. People are starting to get back into R&D as the global economy revives,” he said.
Some candidates, who would otherwise head overseas in search of work, have unavoidable commitments in Ireland, McLarnon said.
‘‘Generally, individuals with a mortgage or young family will be less mobile. Those with mortgages in negative equity will be reluctant or unable to sell their properties,” he said. ‘‘Renting their property out is difficult, creating an economic trap for those that want or need to work abroad.”
McLarnon said candidates who had only just graduated had a tough time securing working visas for other countries.
‘‘Workplace experience is very important in getting working visas for Canada, Australia or New Zealand. People with a couple of years’ working experience are generally better placed to secure a visa,” he said.
Candidates with foreign language skills and travel experience are best placed to secure work overseas.
‘‘Huge opportunities exist in continental Europe for people with a second language. Having travelled before is not a biggie, but employers like to see people who have lived or worked abroad previously as, chances are, they will settle quicker,” said McLarnon.
Now in its fourth year, this month’s Working Abroad Expo will have more than 50 exhibitors, including government bodies, migration officials and recruitment agencies. Relocation experts will offer advice and assistance on starting a new life abroad.
‘‘These are undoubtedly challenging times, but opportunities do exist, and the Working Abroad Expo is designed to give people options, separate the myths from reality and give people the full facts, information, paperwork, contacts and job options they need for starting a better life abroad,” said McLarnon.
‘‘Employers and recruitment specialists will outline job opportunities in nursing, social work, engineering and various skilled trades in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Russia, China and the Middle East,” he said. ‘‘There will also be seminars advising Irish tradespeople about meeting the increasingly high standards of the Australian construction, engineering and hospitality industries.”
The Working Abroad Expo takes place on September 19 and 20 in Dublin’s RDS and the Europa Hotel in Belfast on September 22 and 23. Tickets for the Dublin event cost €10. For more information, or to book a place, visit www.workingabroad.ie
When Saturday Comes – WSC daily – September 8 2009
Read the article on the WSC website by clicking here.
“Ramadan has not arrived at the ideal moment for a player to play a football match,” said Mourinho, upset after a poor 1-1 draw for the Italian champions.
Mourinho’s comments sparked a debate in Italy with Mohamed Nour Dachan, president of the Italian Union of Islamic Communities, telling Sky Italia: “I think Mourinho could do with talking a little less.” The UK’s Daily Star also helpfully picked up on the issue, headlining a story: Muslims: we’ll kill Mourinho.
The issue of footballers dealing with Ramadan, when Muslims must abstain from eating or drinking during daylight hours, has been more calmly dealt with in Spain, a country with its own Moorish Islamic past.
Sevilla’s Freddie Kanouté is among the highest profile players affected. Kanouté, who was 20 when he converted to Islam, the religion of his father, told the press that Ramadan fasting benefited his game rather than hindering it. “Having faith helps my football,” he said. “There is no conflict because people who know about Islam know that fasting empowers and does not weaken the Muslim.”
Various dietary and religious experts have weighed into the debate on whether irregular nutritional intake hinders performance or adds mental discipline. Doctor and Imam Moulana Yusuf Daya praised Real Madrid for supporting the club’s Islamic players, who include Karim Benzema and Lassana Diarra. “Fasting is an effective means of restoring a player’s longevity,” said Daya. “Ramadan also helps lower cholesterol and systolic blood pressure.”
However, while the physical conditioning argument is interesting, it is the strength of character to stand up for what he believes in, whether or not his employers agree, that marks Kanouté out as a singular footballer. When gambling website 888.com sponsored Seville in 2007, Kanouté refused to wear a shirt promoting the sinful practice of gambling, until a “sizeable” amount was donated to an Islamic charity. The following year he spent €500,000 (£434,000) buying a mosque in Seville that had been due to close, so local Muslims had somewhere to pray. In January he was fined by the Spanish League for celebrating a goal by revealing a T-shirt supporting the Palestinian cause.
It is not that uncommon either for Christian footballers to religiously remove clothing upon scoring or winning a game. Everton’s Steven Pienaar, when he scored a deflected winner for Everton against Spurs last year, showed off a “God Is Great” vest and was promptly booked. Kaka famously unveiled his “I Belong To Jesus” T-shirt after winning the Champions League with Milan in 2007. However even Kaka, a leading light in the Athletes for Christ movement, has not involved himself in as many causes as Kanouté.
Whatever you think about Kanouté’s stubborn and/or independent streak, it certainly hasn’t harmed his career. Since leaving Spurs he’s become one of La Liga’s top strikers, scored in two successive victorious UEFA Cup finals and was 2007 African Player of the Year. As it happens, he has had a fairly shocking start to this season – sent off against Valencia as his team lost 2-0 in the season opener. Meanwhile, a 1-1 draw with Benin last weekend means he won’t be at next year’s World Cup.