For thousands of young Irish professionals this Christmas, visiting home also meant scouting for work.
For evidence that Irish immigrants still yearn to return home — despite traffic congestion and skyrocketing house prices — one only needed visit a recruitment fair in Jury’s Hotel, in Ballsbridge, Dublin, which has now become an annual event. Caroline Leacy, manager of an agency called High Skills Pool, which organized the fair, said that while it sometimes resembled a cattle market, a significant number of those attending would get employment as a result of the initial contact they had made with companies at the fair.
She described the people in attendance at the fair as "a mixed bunch," adding that it was the first year in which a high proportion of non-nationals were also in attendance.
Most of the 118 participating companies in the fair were from the technology sector. However, the Irish Times reported that some of the bigger names in the computer sector, such as Dell, Intel, Apple, Microsoft and CBT were not present. "This may be because many of them are not currently recruiting or have just ended their recruitment drives," the Times stated.
Eugenie Houston, the author of "Working and Living in Ireland," a book about returning home after working abroad, was exhibiting at the fair and gave a talk to professionals considering returning to Ireland.
"They are not too preoccupied about pay. The quality of education for their children is something that seems to come up a lot more," she said.
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She added that Irish people who had been living abroad for long periods, 15 years or more, were also present in significant numbers at the fair.
"A lot of them have read about the Celtic Tiger but now want to see if it is actually true," she said.
John Xerri, director of Human resources at Zerox, the document company which is currently recruiting 1,500 people for an operation at Blanchardstown, Co. Dublin, and several hundred more for another plant in Dundalk, Co. Louth, said that newer companies are "coming through in terms of employing people."
"The more familiar names have done most of their recruiting in the last few years and now don’t need as many people, whereas newer companies like ourselves are looking for large numbers of people," he said.
He added that the word "salary" had only been heard once at the company’s stand and that other considerations were just as important to Irish professionals considering a return.
"Career development is the thing that concerns most of them. They can get a job, no problem, but they want one where they can move around and improve their skills as they progress," he said.