The continued growth of the Irish economy is crucially dependent on attracting high value-added industry, and that is why our workforce must constantly upskill and stay abreast of new technologies, according to the Director of one of the country’s leading Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programmes.
| Senator Feargal Quinn, founder of the Superquinn supermarket chain |
The Industry Director of Engineers Ireland, Úna Parsons, said that Engineers Ireland CPD programme is designed to support lifelong learning and career development by engineers and technical staff. Supported by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, there are now 86 fully accredited companies, and these employ over 11,000 engineers and technicians.
“Participating companies can see there is a direct linkage between CPD participation and enhanced business performance and output, and this is one very practical reason why there is so much support and enthusiasm amongst leading companies for this programme”, Parsons added.
She was speaking at the annual CPD symposium of Engineers Ireland in Dublin this morning, where the keynote speaker was former supermarket owner Senator Feargal Quinn. Other contributors were from companies including IBM, ABB Ltd. (Dundalk), ESB and RPS Consulting.
Parsons said that CPD best practice was critical to Ireland developing a knowledge economy, and she is confident that by the end of this year nearly 100 companies and organisations will have achieved full accreditation for implementing a learning and development programme for their engineering professionals, and that over 300 companies and organisations will be involved in the overall programme.
“Over the coming years, Engineers Ireland aim to continue the roll-out of the CPD programme to include all the key employers of engineers in the country to assist these organisations to attract and retain the calibre of engineering professionals that they will require in order to remain competitive, and to move Ireland’s economy up the value chain”, she added.
Ireland has now become a “party society” – not a society of political parties – but a society that just likes to party – without a thought for what will happen when the tide goes out on our prosperity, according to Senator Feargal Quinn.
Calling for a “solid technological backbone to the Ireland of tomorrow”, he said we needed a sizeable number of young people to choose science-related and engineering subjects.”.
Quinn continued: “The reality, however, is that the supply of engineers is drying up, not expanding as it should be – as we need it to be. In today's party society, fewer and fewer young people are prepared to embrace what they see as ‘hard subjects’. Hard subjects like mathematics, the foundation for any pursuit of disciplines related to science and engineering."
He told his audience of managing directors and senior engineering and HR managers at the CPD symposium, that for the prosperity created by the Celtic Tiger to continue, we needed technological capability, and the ability to use technology as a driver of competitive advantage for this country.
He warmly praised the Government’s decision to invest heavily in scientific research, but he said that turning Ireland into a world-class research centre is not enough.
However, he said, it “simply beggars belief that a State that could develop such an enlightened attitude to scientific research should be the very same State which through inertia and ineptitude has allowed Ireland to languish year after year in the lower reaches of the international league of broadband penetration”.
He said cheap broadband access was a key enabler for people to embrace the full potential of the knowledge society.
Quinn said that to aspire to be a leader in the knowledge society without universal access to broadband would be “like saying, a hundred years ago, that we were going to tie Ireland's future to the development of the motor car, but that in the meantime the people of Ireland were going to have to do with bicycles!”.
He said he was also really concerned to read a recent survey of final year university students that indicated that only a tiny percentage had the ambition to set up their own business.
He said the harsh reality was that all the money the government is presently investing in scientific research will be wasted unless there are enough qualified Irish scientists and engineers to exploit it and to turn it into future economic growth.
“Those future engineers and scientists simply will not exist, unless the government creates a revolution in the second-level teaching of mathematics and science and engineering-related subjects”.
Quinn said that the “party society” must have its priorities changed; the young people who may become tomorrow's engineers need to have their perception of what is a “hard subject” radically changed, and changed for good.
Eircom to broadband enable an additional 319 exchanges
Comment: Does the glacial adoption of Broadband in Ireland tell us more about ourselves than we would care to know?