Trends in graduate recruitment in Engineering

Positive growth and opportunities have returned in this diverse sector

Good news for graduates as the Engineering sector continues its upward trend, meaning there will be more job opportunities for graduates in 2015.

28% of employers indicated they are hiring more candidates in the next campaign compared to the last, while the rest said they would hire the same. No employer plans on decreasing their graduate recruits, according to the Graduate Recruitment and Employability Survey (2013-14) conducted by AHECS.

Despite the good news, employer feedback suggests the market is becoming more and more competitive, so graduates need to meet more specific criteria and display more particular skills to stand out.

“We have seen an increase over the past couple of years in the numbers of students selecting electronics as a course of study and, as a result, this gives us a wider choice when selecting the strongest graduates for our roles”, says a leading employer in the survey.

As a result, it’s more necessary than ever to know what employers are looking for. The survey highlighted that all employers recruit from Engineering degree backgrounds, but Commerce and Business Studies, Science, and Food, Science and Technology degrees are also relevant.

All employers hire graduates with level 8 honours degrees, but 29% said they hire Level 7 graduates as well, who are those with three year ordinary degrees.

Specialised Roles

In terms of what employers are looking for, the most-important criteria was a relevant degree, which is indicative of how specialised the roles in this sector are.

Second most-important is gaining relevant experience followed by overall academic results. Most degree programmes encompass work experience at some point, so employers point out those who have sought relevant summer internships as being at an advantage due to their additional experience.

For employability skills, teamwork was highlighted by all employers as valuable, followed by a positive attitude. Employers pointed out graduates tend to lack business and customer awareness and self-management skills, both of which they’d like to see potential recruits focus on developing in third-level.

Another recommendation was for graduates to learn one foreign language as many of the employers surveyed have multiple opportunities abroad. They said graduates should learn a language alongside their degree, even if it’s not a part of their course.

“Given the company’s growth strategy, this [the company’s turnover in Ireland] is unlikely to move upwards, even with a return to growth in the Irish economy. However, we expect a range of opportunities for Irish graduates in other countries in which the Group has a presence”, said one employer.

Employers also recommended students choose a challenging final year project. Too often, they say, they see students pick easy projects in order to get a higher grade. A more difficult project will demonstrate greater technical knowledge and abilities in the interview process.

Download the AHECS Graduate Recruitment and Employability Survey 2013 here