Damien Owens of Engineers Ireland appealed for young people to consider engineering apprenticeships as a way of mitigating the ongoing skills shortage.
The latest report by Engineers Ireland highlights the need for the sector to address skills shortages and encourage more people to enter the industry.
Engineers Ireland is the professional body that represents engineers nationwide. Its first employers’ survey since the pandemic has found that almost three quarters (72pc) of member-respondents are very concerned about the shortage of skilled engineers.
The organisation’s director general, Damien Owens, warned that society will suffer if the skills gap continues to worsen. He said engineers’ skills are crucial for many of the parts of life we take for granted to run smoothly.
“The engineering field is one of the most important in our society. Engineering touches the lives of everyone, providing creative solutions to societal needs from tangible works such as bridges and flood defences, to heart stents and prostheses as well as the invisible technology that is all around us.
“But there is a problem: there are not enough skilled engineers to meet demand,” Owens said, adding that the skills shortage that is affecting the sector “is nothing new” and has been an ongoing issue for years.
“To try and retain or seek talent, companies are upskilling, maintaining hybrid working where possible and attracting talent from overseas.”
Owens pointed out that some of the society-wide plans the Government is hoping to implement over the next few years could suffer if there is not enough engineers to oversee them.
He singled out the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 goals and ambitions as something that may suffer.
“In Project Ireland 2040, the Government has committed to actions on climate change and a ready supply of talented engineers will be fundamental to realising these goals.”
Ahead of today’s (1 February) deadline for CAO applications for undergraduate courses, Owens appealed to students who are considering their options to look into engineering apprenticeships and ‘earn and learn’ opportunities.
An engineering apprenticeship can be “a proven way for employers to develop talent for their company, as well as opening up new and rewarding careers, with learning grounded in practical experience.”
As well as being attractive to students, practical apprenticeships are a good way of addressing the sector’s skills shortage fast.
“If we don’t address the skills shortage soon, it could have negative effects on our economy and society. We urgently need more young people choosing careers in engineering,” said Owens. He also highlighted the need for more young women to get into the sector.
“In 2023, the reality is that the number of students moving into third-level engineering and the technology sectors needs to be much larger to meet employers’ future needs for graduates.”
While he acknowledged that the tech sector has been affected by jobs cuts recently, Owens said that there are plenty of other sectors urgently in need of engineers. The report anticipates that there will be almost 8,000 new engineering jobs in sectors like construction, consultancy and green-tech this year alone.
As part of its campaign to raise awareness about engineering careers and apprenticeships, Engineers Ireland is calling on engineering companies, third-level institutions, local bodies, schools and more to get involved in its annual celebration of all things engineering. Its STEPS Engineers Week 2023 runs from 4 to 10 March.
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