'Huge demand' for qualified engineers

A shortage of engineers could undermine prosperity, a body representing the sector has said, writes Pádraig Hoare

Engineers Ireland said Ireland must produce more engineers at a quicker rate to keep up with demands on infrastructure and technology.

This year’s Leaving Certificate results showed a boost of 5% in the numbers sitting science, technology, engineering and maths at higher level when compared to 2016. Chartered engineer Damien Owens of Engineers Ireland said: “While we need to ensure we have a modern capital infrastructure in place to underpin Ireland’s economic recovery and meet anticipated economic growth, we also need a skilled labour force ready to create and fill the jobs of the future.”

Mr Owens said there is great demand “for engineers of all kinds”, saying that he encouraged those who are not offered the points they need for their preferred engineering course at third level, to consider “all routes into engineering”.

That includes apprenticeships or other skills-based training which are increasing in popularity, and have strong backing by State agencies such as Solas, he said.

“There is huge demand right now for qualified engineers, from civil to support the country’s critical infrastructure needs, to chemical, mechanical and those specialising in chip design, software and process automation. Ireland’s economic recovery and demographic trends are placing extreme demands on the country’s infrastructure and technology, including in housing and the digital economy. The acute shortage of skilled professionals is threatening the country’s supply of new infrastructure and technology, thereby potentially undermining our future prosperity,” he said.

The State of Ireland 2017 report by Engineers Ireland on infrastructure claimed extra investment is needed to build modern capital infrastructure particularly in areas such as transport, broadband and water.

“For ambitious plans such as the Government’s National Planning Framework to succeed, there is a skills gap, and the country needs to produce more engineers at a faster rate than it currently has done,” Mr Owens said.

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner

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