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Why switching lanes can be the fastest route to career success

With multiple careers more usual, State-backed upskilling initiatives mean it has never been easier to change tack

Dubliner Niamh Donnelly started off in mechanical engineering. When she decided that, in fact, she’d prefer to work in IT, she secured a place on a Springboard course, a Government-backed upskilling and reskilling initiative designed to develop Ireland’s talent base in key growth sectors of the economy.

“Springboard was great – it allowed me to test the waters for the different areas and options out there in computer science,” says Donnelly. “And it helped me gain the hard skills needed for a job in the tech industry.”

Participation on Donnelly’s course was free and, when she completed it, she landed a terrific job working with makers’ platform Esty. But her interest in technology, and specifically in artificial intelligence and machine learning, only grew. She left to co-found Akara, a developer of robots for healthcare.

As Donnelly discovered, it has never been easier to change tack in your career and perhaps never been more rewarding. That’s something Barry Prost, co-founder of Rent a Recruiter, sees daily.


“It is much more acceptable to have multiple careers now. Even just five or 10 years ago employers liked to see candidates have four or five years under their belt at a job but not so much any more,” he says.

Indeed, changing career paths is so normalised that what candidates want are roles that bring value to them in terms of not just their current role but their next one.

“The amount of upskilling or training an employer can offer has become a point of competitive advantage and that’s being driven by the market,” says Prost.

“A lot of the skills that we’re going to need in the coming years haven’t been invented yet, so the market is driving people to pivot and change. What’s more, that’s only going to accelerate as we see digitisation and artificial intelligence flow through and disrupt loads of different sectors.”

Prost is on the Dublin Chamber’s labour taskforce and is vice chair of the Dublin Regional Skills Forum, which links businesses and education providers. Right now there is a huge emphasis across the EU on upskilling, in readiness for the digital disruption ahead.

“It may surprise people to find we are a bit behind the curve on that front. In Ireland we are very good at getting people to third-level education but once people come out of that they seem to down tools and stop learning, at a time when lifelong learning and upskilling is becoming increasingly important,” he says.

Another Government-backed initiative to help is Skills to Advance, a national programme run by Solas which provides upskilling and reskilling opportunities to employees looking to take advantage of new job opportunities or who find themselves working in a sector particularly vulnerable to disruption.

It works with small and medium-sized business employers too to identify skills needs and invest in their workforce by providing subsidised education and training.

“It offers programmes in subjects like leadership and management – fundamentals that will never go out of date – and helps employees and employers alike to have this growth or learning mindset,” says Prost.

According to the Future of Jobs Report by the World Economic Forum, published in April, by 2025 about 40 per cent of the core skills needed for workers to perform in their roles are expected to change and 50 per cent of all employees will need reskilling.

Prost supports employer group Ibec’s call for a training voucher, similar to the Enterprise Ireland model of innovation vouchers, to encourage participation in lifelong learning.

“I think it’s a brilliant idea,” he says. “We are seeing younger generations, particularly millennials and Gen Z, prioritising having varied experiences and growth opportunities in their careers. They are likely to want to explore different roles, employers and sectors to acquire a wide array of experiences.

“We are also seeing an increasing demand for roles that offer a healthy a work-life balance, as well as flexibility. Continuous learning and the development of new skills are highly valued by candidates today to ensure they are equipped for the jobs of tomorrow.”

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell is a contributor to The Irish Times