Engineers Ireland has publicly urged aspiring engineers to consider alternatives to studying at university, a watershed declaration from a STEM industry historically linked with third level certification.
The Institution for Engineers of Ireland, which has served as a representative body for the nation’s engineers since 1835, made the declaration following the release of CAO points in early September, which left many engineering hopefuls out of a placement.
CAO points for engineering courses have skyrocketed in the past year, souring from 520 to 565 at UCD, from 476 to 498 at UL, and from 411 to 475 at Munster Technological University. Only Waterford IT’s engineering course saw a points decrease, dropping from 288 to 270 points.
“We would urge students who have not obtained the required CAO points or who have not followed the traditional CAO pathway to consider all routes for a career in the sector, such as apprenticeships and other skills-based training,” said Caroline Spillane, director general of Engineers Ireland.
The announcement may be illustrative of the changing tide in the engineering industry, away from formal education and towards more hands-on experience.
For Josefine Berggren, a mechanical engineering student at DCU, a career in engineering only ever meant one thing: university.
“It’s a social stigma, it’s just what you have to do,’ she said. “I never thought about having another option in my life, I was always encouraged to go to school, I liked maths, and they came easy to me, so that’s just what I did.”
Other avenues for hopeful engineers might help occupy the nation’s demand for them, as a March report by Engineers Ireland found that 79 per cent of engineering organisations in the country were planning to recruit new staff in 2021 despite the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit.
“Engineers are at the forefront of innovation and deliver sustainable and creative solutions to some of the world’s most complex challenges,” Spillane said. “From clean water supplies and safe buildings to renewable energy and sustainable transport, engineers are critical to Irish society, our environment and economy, and will play a pivotal role in our green and digital future.”
Berggren said the discipline has become for excited young people, thanks to the abundance of innovative engineering-based companies like Tesla or Apple.
“[My classmates] conversations are all about this new technology and these new companies that are doing cool things, so you can tell that it is becoming a lot more competitive.”
Devin Sean Martin