It’s that time of year, where graduates all over Northern Ireland are considering their options as they end one chapter at university and prepare to enter the world of work. For creative graduates this can be even more daunting as today’s society prioritises STEM subject-based learning over the arts, which will ultimately lead to the stagnation of education and the workplace, with more graduates than jobs for them in their chosen fields. According to a leading education expert for young people, Andreas Schleicher, ‘in the fourth industrial revolution, arts may become more important than maths.’ This revolutionary thinker is not alone in believing that science and maths will lose its prominence as technology continues to advance, and the true hard skills that will make stand-out exemplary candidates will be, ‘your curiosity, your leadership, your persistence and your resilience’. No matter which career creatives decide to explore, they display these needed qualities of leadership in their positions and resilience in the face of rejection they meet in tailoring a career that suits them as individuals. It becomes clear that the education system needs to recognise, nurture and support creative genius and innovative thinkers, as they too advance and approach the problem of choice in terms of career.
As opposed to science graduates, creatives have a certain level of practical skill to bring to any work environment, an element that is in severe decline among the younger generation. According to medical experts in the field, there is a growing concern about a lack of ‘tactile general knowledge’ in light of STEM graduates having exemplary exam results. Bearing this in mind, a few outstanding figures from the local community here in the heart of Belfast have come forward to present their own unique stories. Using their stellar careers as a basis to work from, they continue to reach out to fellow rising stars, giving them a fellow community to take strength and experience from, and help them craft their own piece of history through their chosen industry.
Dr. Eamonn Hughes Lecturer of Irish studies at Queen’s university, Belfast. Currently a freelance writer and researcher, who is looking forward to publishing much more work on world renowned Irish author James Joyce.
Dr. Eamonn Hughes was a highly esteemed lecturer at Queen’s University specialising in Irish literature of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. After many years of nurturing local emerging talent in his classroom and lecture halls, he has decided to retire from the lecture circuit and pursue more personal projects that inspire him as a freelance writer. His current aspirations are to work on his own autobiography which will detail his progress from student to civil servant, and from that to inspire many students to pursue higher education from the position of lecturer. Other interesting ventures he’s set aside for many years only to come back to are ‘masculinity and Irish fiction’, writing on the evolution of Belfast itself, and a figure that’s been an inspiration of his for many years: the literary genius of James Joyce, a great revolutionary author that inspired Hughes as a young man and continued to throughout his academic career with ‘A portrait of the artist as a young man’ and ‘Ulysses’.
Among many of the talented Irish writers out there, Hughes mentioned in particular the works of John McGahern who he gave a talk on for the BBC, and ‘Belfast Confetti’ written by fellow creative writing lecturer Ciaran Carson which he believed really, ‘shapes and changes your view’ of the city. Through this conversation it became so clear what the power of the written word has to offer both students and members of academia, and that is to unleash the power of imagination and inspire generations to come, with ideas and beliefs that maybe our society can only aspire to. Still the written word can bridge the gap between the now, and a future filled with ideals that could unite us as a people again. In other words, a very worthy subject to pursue at higher education. Further to this, Hughes professes that he’s loved teaching, giving testimony to it being an admirable and worthwhile career to pursue for those students hoping to follow this path.
However, giving up this to focus on his fresh start as a freelance writer has afforded him opportunities to publish with different journals online, and to really get stuck into his work on Joyce making use of McClay Library where his access to their special collections for his project has been pivotal. He’s a great advocate for freelance writing as a career, as the subject of vlogging and blogging seems to dominate the writing circle now, and through these new mediums comes new opportunities for writers and creatives out there to practice and perfect their craft. One renowned fellow writer, Lyra McKee, was mentioned as she pioneered the field of investigative journalism and made ample use of her blog to provide great writing on a subject that has formed the basis of society and culture here in Northern Ireland. Lyra provides an excellent example of how the writer can give context to the confusion and controversy that history has made.
As the conversation went on, it turned towards English literature at Queen’s University, which Hughes states is ‘a very flexible degree’ where the students can tailor a career path made for them afterwards. What graduates may come to realise is there are no set paths for creatives, and they can access whichever field they wish to due to the skills that are honed in their degree. Employers should recognise that creative graduates are ‘competent and efficient’ just as those who specialised in the STEM subjects but can add something a little extra to the running of a business through ‘improving methods’ while there, while also thinking outside the box when it comes to problem-solving. Profitable skills are emphasised and enhanced while undertaking the undergraduate degree, such as critical thinking and analysis, which all ultimately encourage students to question things and the nature of what the graduate is doing to actually implement improvements in your daily tasks. As far as employers are concerned there’s great emphasis on theory and practical applications in business, without necessarily taking into account the social and ethical consequences of such actions which creatives could seek to provide answers to.
As far as postgraduate and PhD opportunities go, the students must decide for themselves which path to take as the Masters programme would be a terrific opportunity for students to specialise more in their chosen subject and avail of added electives and classes to improve their career opportunities while there. However, according to Hughes, who was greatly involved in the formation of the Masters programme as it stands, would warn that the programme should be reviewed for future students looking to partake in this. As he left the university shortly after the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences schools merged together, and believes the Masters programme has suffered a little neglect due this re-organisation in terms of teaching and material to be taught. Hughes played a major part in inspiring and nurturing local talent through his passion for Irish studies within the confines of his classroom. His creativity and innovative thinking is now unleashed in his budding freelance career; which will undoubtedly cause ripples in terms of thinking and work produced among the academic community.
The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.
View more posts