Industry and Guidance come together for Guidance and Inspiration

Four people sitting around a table completing group work and smiling

Lift-off for GAIN (Guidance and Industry Network)

The first week in January is usually somewhat quiet in the office, but this year on 4th Jan, Accenture’s Global Innovation Centre, The Dock was abuzz with guests from DCU, 30% Club, CWIT and several member companies along with a whole host of Accenture staff for the inaugural Guidance and Industry Network (GAIN) event.

A sizable group of trainee Guidance Counsellors and faculty members had travelled for the all-day event to hear from speakers representing a wide range of companies and industry sectors about how they recruit, what they look for and how a career changes over time for most people. Over coffee breaks and lunch, they were able to network with professionals in the industry as well as their own peers. Throughout a series of panel discussions, interactive interludes, and breakout sessions they asked questions and together developed a stronger understanding of how they can support their students in determining career and academic choices.

Early feedback from the attendees has been that they found the day engaging and informative, gaining a deeper insight into the changing world of work and the competencies required – for the roles of today and in future. The speakers, who were from diverse backgrounds with a variety of roles, candidly shared their personal career journey and how it changed, sometimes unexpectedly. Their resilience and adaptability in the face of challenges and their willingness to seek new opportunities resonated with the audience. By the end of the day, the Guidance Counsellors had heard many inspirational stories and gained a new understanding of industry that they in turn can share with those they work with in many different settings from schools, further education and training, adult guidance and non-profit settings.

Why is it important?

The nature of the world of work means that there are now professions that did not exist 10 or even 5 years ago. People generally have a far narrower perception of what career opportunities may be available in a supermarket, a bank or a law firm than what these organisations are looking for; science, maths and technology now permeates almost every industry sector. On the other hand, companies that specialise in chip design, software development or pharmaceuticals don’t just need STEM graduates; they also need experts in arts and humanities to help them build better products and services for their consumers. Multidisciplinary teams made of people with varied life experiences who work together are essential for successful business. Simply put, diversity in business is not only a nice thing to do for altruistic reasons, but also vital for success and growth, as companies who embrace diversity are more likely to outperform their competitors.

Most people’s careers are not linear. They may have studied a set of subjects at second / third level but then gone on to do something completely different or taken a break and retrained to work in a different field entirely. Not only does that ‘job for life’ mentality of previous generations no longer apply, but young people now will find themselves in roles that do not yet exist today and jobs that get created throughout their working life. On average, we already switch careers between three and seven times in our working life, so change is the only constant. Life presents different opportunities and challenges, and those who thrive do so because they are curious to learn, adapt to the changes and possess the resilience to work through obstacles.

How did it come about?

The latest Accenture STEM report published in 2019 indicated that students had a very traditional view about the most desired areas to work in after School/College: Teaching/Education (20 percent), Arts (13 percent) and Medicine (10 percent). The report also emphasised that career guidance in schools can be a missed opportunity, with only around a quarter of students (24 percent) considering career guidance counselling influential when choosing subjects.

On the back of STEM Teacher Internships programme, which has grown every year since it started in 2016, several companies who are members of 30% Club and CWIT wanted to do something to support guidance counsellors, but we also recognised that we did not know enough about their needs and requirements. So, we reached out to Dublin City University (DCU), who offer both MSc and Graduate Diploma programmes in Guidance Counselling. Working in a small group, we identified need for guidance counsellors and industry to come together and so GAIN was born. The following months saw much preparation and planning as speakers were recruited, the structure of the day designed and, internally in Accenture, we asked for help from multiple groups, which was very willingly given, as everyone saw the value in this initiative.

We have had a lot of help and support from many people in all the different organisations involved. We would specifically like to thank Aisling Murray Fleming, Programme Chair, MSc / Grad Dip Guidance Counselling, DCU for guiding us on what would be most important to the students; Gillian Harford, Country Executive, 30% Club Ireland for persuading all the industry speakers to come to the office on a cold January morning;the speakers from Accenture, AIB, AMD, Davy, ESB, Fidelity, Google, HSE, Microsoft, Morgan McKinley, PM Group, Public Appointments Service and Tesco who shared their personal stories in this first event as well as all the member companies of Connecting Women in Technology (CWiT) and 30% Club networks for their support;Prof Anne Looney, Executive Dean, Institute of Education in DCU and Paula Neary, Senior Managing Director, Accenturefor their unwavering support from the first day; Katie Keogh, DCU for bringing people together for the brainstorming session and successive meetings afterwards; Helen Raftery and Ann Butler from Junior Achievements Ireland for the energizing game after lunch; Accenture Early Talent Recruitment Team for a very engaging break out session reinforcing all the concepts from the day; all other Accenture teams involved with logistics, catering, videography and many others who willingly gave their time and expertise in the planning preparation and execution of the event;  and ever resourceful Niamh O’Hare, Accenture, for pulling it all together.  

For me, it has been a personal highlight designing this programme with this team. As Prof Anne Looney, said in her opening speech for the event, this is just the beginning of the collaboration between industry and educators, and we look forward to supporting this new alliance as the programme progresses in partnership with the 30% Club and CWiT. 

Written by Shalini Hollingum, Senior Manager, Accenture

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