What are Irish students' career priorities? | KPMG | IE
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Survey shows students value meaningful work and quality of life

Work-life balance top of priorities for Irish students

The Think Future study surveyed 4,750 Irish university students between the ages of 18 and 25 who are part of Generation Z.


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(Dublin, 29 November 2016) A major new study of university students by KPMG has shown that most students value doing meaningful work and maintaining a work-life balance as their most important priorities. The Think Future study surveyed 4,750 Irish university students between the ages of 18 and 25 who are part of Generation Z. Despite feeling well supported by their college during their degree courses, over half (59%) of respondents do not yet have concrete career plans for post-college life.

Notable results were:

  • 79% feel well supported by their university to succeed in their degree;
  • 92% want a career that "makes a difference";
  • 66% agree that university has improved their confidence levels;
  • However 59% of respondents do not yet have concrete career plans;
  • The top priority for male students is "finding a job I enjoy" while female students prioritise "having time to spend with my family";
  • 29% want to further their education after graduating, while 23% want to work in academia or teaching;
  • 47% of women believe that their gender may impact their career opportunities and pay;
  • 56% of women polled said that the reputation a sector has for gender equality would influence their decision about working in it, compared to 35% of men polled.

Responses reveal that students are increasingly prioritising careers where they perceive they are making a difference. They also place significant importance on spending time with family and achieving a healthy work-life balance. 

Three in four respondents said that career specific talks would help them decide on the best career for them, closely followed by being provided with more information on internships and listening to talks from senior industry professionals. 

There is a noticeable gender divide in responses, with women prioritising spending time with family over job prospects more so than men who prioritise careers. Men and women also have different definitions of meaningful work, with men more focused on academic fulfilment and women focused on reaching their full potential. In addition, women are more concerned that gender inequality in the workplace may restrict their career progression and are attracted to employers that focus on gender equality.

As well as a lack of concrete career plans amongst many students, a large proportion of students are also favouring academia as an option for the future. In addition, parents continue to have a strong influence on a student's career choices. Students whose parents have attended university are more likely to have concrete career plans than those whose parents did not attend university.     

Darina Barrett, Head of Financial Services Markets at KPMG said: "This study is the result of a lot of work and rigorous data gathering. It gives us a fascinating insight into the attitudes of Generation Z as they prepare to enter the working world. This generation is facing unique challenges and their attitudes and priorities are clearly different from the generation that preceded them. It indicates to employers the importance of offering purpose to employees in the workplace, as well as highlighting the importance of gender equality at work."

Helena Eccles, the founder of the Think Future Study and an undergraduate at the University of Cambridge commented: "Generation Z students are driven by a 'profit with purpose' mentality - they want to do worthwhile work and be rewarded well for their contribution to society. This new cohort of students, who are about to enter the working world, have a different set of wants, needs and aspirations and businesses need to readily adapt to these demands."

The survey gathered responses from 2,850 female and 1,900 male students from University College Dublin, University College Cork and Dublin City University. 87% of respondents were full time undergraduates. 

About KPMG in Ireland

KPMG in Ireland employs 2,500 people across its audit, tax and advisory services from offices in Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Galway. KPMG is a global network of professional firms providing Audit, Tax, and Advisory services.  

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