Tales from a Graduate: Suited and Booted and Nowhere to Work

When the collapse of Northern Rock in September 2007 triggered a bank run and a credit crunch on a scale not seen since the gloomy days of the Great Depression I was safely hidden within the sanctuary of academia, convinced that the rest of my undergraduate studies would see me safely ride out the global downturn in its entirety. Or so I thought.

In the end hindsight tells us that the Northern Rock debacle, which occurred now nearly 5 years ago, was only the start of a global downturn that has recently been predicted to go on until 2019 as households, corporates and nation states continue the long and painful process of deleveraging their balance sheets.

Certainly a year after Northern Rock hit our screens in autumn 2007 Lehman Brothers, which at the time was the third largest investment bank in the world and one that had financial liabilities that spanned the globe, collapsed and turned what was a more localised credit crunch into the full blown global recession that so ruinously corrupted the books of individuals, banks and governments across the world.

And with governments and central banks socialising the private losses in order to prop up the entire global banking system and to keep credit flowing, what started as a private funding crisis, quickly turned into a crippling sovereign debt crisis as manifested so disturbingly in the U.S. and Europe.
With the ECB holding interest levels so low and offering cheap credit in the early 2000s, the Frankfurt bank essentially facilitated the boom years in the PIGS by allowing profligate spending both by privates and governments. The aftermath has seen a post-crisis hangover that has governments crippled by deleterious levels of debt which more recently has led to Greece, Ireland and Portugal all receiving massive bailouts. However these are bailouts with the strictest of terms, reducing these proud states into nothing more that protectorates and vassal states.

Indeed the IMF, the ECB and the European Commission are squatting square above Merrion Street, deeply scrutinising all economic policies and in every sense Ireland has been robbed of its sovereignty. Up north David Cameron et al. have ensured that Sammy Wilson has had the hard task of dealing with a hugely limited budget in comparison to those in the past, a reality which has had deeply painful effects on the local public sector, schools and commensurate knock on effects to the private sector.

Thus having surveyed in brief the financial crisis to date as I see it I believe this is where I come in and I can say whole heartedly that having emerged from the sanctuary of academia that I have been given the rudest of awakenings. Certainly the reality of the cut backs as implemented across the sectors has ensured that my quest for a job has been hugely challenging as I find myself as one among hundreds vying for a single place.

To date I have had a number of interviews in Belfast and further afield all of which have been unsuccessful, something that many young and highly qualified people across Ireland can relate to and moreover something that prompted me to compose the illustration and this written accompaniment. Certainly I believe this is a pressing issue that could do with constructive discussion in the open air.

Indeed the young graduate generation from across the island of Ireland has unquestionably been one of the primary victims of the global financial crisis confronted with a job market like no other. Whilst Ireland has a skilled and highly capable generation of young people, arguably Ireland’s greatest natural resource, suited and booted and very much ready for work, there just simply aren’t the jobs out there; a sad and deeply challenging situation which has pushed countless to seek a life beyond these shores, often not by choice and something that I can testify to.

Perhaps my choice of terminology for the current situation may sound over the top, but with 1,000 young people leaving the Republic a week and reports that by April 2012 100,000 will have left, the epithet demographic cleansing certainly isn’t out of place. This is an issue that have been dealt with explicitly down south by Finance Minister Noonan and the like but the issue up here in the north has received nowhere near as equitable an exposure.

I’m not saying that our servants up at Stormont aren’t doing a decent job up at Stormont, on the contrary I would be full of praise for their constant efforts and salutary results which have seen jobs schemes for jobless graduates as well as major corporations such as Herbert Smith, Allen and Overy, NYE Euronext and most recently the Chicago Mercantile Exchange set up operations in our province and ready to soak up an deeply oversaturated graduate market.

However I do believe that while these are positive efforts there is somewhat of a looming demographic crisis amongst our young graduates who are being churned out at a level of supply that far outstrips demand. As such this needs more attention and I am keen to hear what slugger can say on the matter.

Brian is a writer, artist, political cartoonist and legal blogger.

Actively tweeting from @brianjohnspencr. More information here: http://www.brianjohnspencer.com/