There was an unusual level of buzz and excitement in the office on the 3rd Jan for what was the first day back to work after holidays for many. Every available digital signage in Accenture The Dock was emblazoned with DCU branding as we were preparing to host an all-day event on the 4th. We had a large meeting room dedicated for the day and the location team had beautifully designed two designated spaces on 3rd floor and 5th floor with gorgeous views of the Grand Canal for the attendees’ breakfast and lunch breaks. As we completed the finishing touches that evening, we were a little nervous whether the speakers and audience will make it in the morning as they peel themselves off the post-Christmas and New Year break to make use of this amazing, curated space.
But they did and in abundance! More than 70 Guidance Counsellors and 20+ representatives from the different industry sectors turned up in the morning for a day of collaboration and networking. Aisling Fleming, Programme Chair MSc & Grad Dip Guidance Counselling in DCU had connected with Institute of Guidance Counsellors and invited qualified professionals who are in the roles of providing career advice to second and third level students and adults seeking a change or return to work. Gillian Harford, Country Executive of 30% Club and member of CWIT SteerCo had hand selected speakers so that the audience could hear from a wide range of industry sectors from food, pharma, technology, law, public services to name just a few.
The event was opened by Paula Neary, Senior Managing Director and STEM Sponsor in Accenture and she talked about how the reports have consistently highlighted that the teachers, after parents, are the most influential for young people as they make subject and career choices, and the industry as a huge part to play in collaborating with educators and equipping them with the information they need. Indeed, this was the whole purpose of the event.
Guidance and Industry Network (GAIN) was created in 2023 by DCU with support from 30% club and CWIT, to provide Guidance Counsellors with an opportunity to build relationships with professionals in the industry as well as their own peers and together develop a stronger understanding of how students can be supported in determining career and academic choices. We at Accenture hosted the inaugural event last year and it was an absolute pleasure to be able to do so again.
Siobhan Neary, Professor of Career Development / Head of International Centre for Guidance Studies (iCeGS), had travelled from the UK to be with us for the day and she talked about the importance of taking the next step in the direction that is the most motivating and that career paths are rarely linear and we don’t know what jobs will be in place a few years down the line and therefore it is vital to build the skills and capabilities and to take opportunities as they come.
This was a recurring theme throughout the day as we heard a panel of industry representatives talk about how they plan their recruitment campaigns, what they look for in the candidates, how they support applicants with neurodiversity or any additional requirements and even how they prepare both the hiring managers and candidates for in person and virtual assessments.
Later in the day, we heard from 4 individuals under 30 who shared their fascinating career journeys with plenty of twists and turns and unexpected challenges that they overcame through resilience and perseverance and turned obstacles into opportunities. We also heard from employers on career pathways that might be considered atypical such as joining workforce through apprenticeships and rising through the ranks through experience as well as part-time education. The new piece this year was hearing from a panel of Guidance Counsellors as they outlined their challenges and shared some insights on what we can do from industry to help. For example, they highlighted that their students would benefit from hearing the career journey stories or even directly from employers what they look for in candidates. This is a relatively easy thing to arrange as we in the industry are always happy to support school visits and now through the GaIN programme, the Guidance Counsellors have access to a multitude of speakers from all the participating companies whom they can contact and invite them to the schools.
The day was rounded off with a Case Study where several members of Accenture’s early recruitment team talked to the guidance counsellors in smaller groups about our recruitment process and different pathways for joining Accenture. They were accompanied by Analysts who had themselves gone through these processes only a year or two ago and could talk about the experience from candidates’ perspective as well as give some insight into what a person in their first couple of years with Accenture might get involved in their day to day job whether it is data science, cyber security, project management as well as a huge range of sports and social activities.
The hosting team, speakers and participants all finished off the day feeling that we had all learnt a great deal. For some of us, this was merely a pause as we travelled to Limerick for support the second all-day event hosted by Northern Trust. We had been collaborating with Kiara O’Keeffe, 2nd Vice President, Co-Chair EMEA Women in Tech, EUC Lead, Infra – Ireland Technical Services at Northern Trust Corporation, over last few months. Hosting the event in Limerick increased the reach to the Guidance Counsellors based in Munster region and gave them the opportunity to hear from employers with local as well as national presence.
The second day started with a welcome note from Northern Trust’s Limerick General Manager Catherine Duffy followed by keynote from Meliosa O’Caoimh, Country Head of Northern Trust & Chair of 30% Club Ireland. While the overall structure was quite similar, it was also very interesting to note the different perspectives from employers and Guidance Counsellors. The under 30 speakers who presented their career journeys were again truly inspiring, each sharing their unique experiences. The employers shared their recruitment processes and how they support the candidates. The approx. 50 Guidance Counsellors who attended were engaged and interested in the collaboration with industry.
Over the two days, it was encouraging to hear that by and large Irish employers recognise that careers are rarely linear, are cognizant of how people from different demographic might perceive a recruitment advert and therefore tend to tailor the campaign for the target cohort and support the candidate to help them put their best foot forward. The Guidance Counsellors hopefully also took away that there are numerous roles in companies around them that their students and counselees could aspire to.
As Aisling Fleming and Gillian Harford wrapped up the event on both days, they invited the Guidance Counsellors to use this network and reach out to companies that they probably walk or drive past every day and find out what they do, what roles they can offer, whether through conventional paths or not, and how their students can take the next step towards them and beyond.