Report identifies demand for skills in the high-tech sector
20 May 2014
Nine of the top ten biopharma-pharmachem companies globally have research, manufacturing and services activities in Ireland. In 2012, the sector accounted for €55 billion of Ireland’s exports (the companies included: Pfizer, Merck, GSK, J&J, Novartis, Roche, Amgen, Eli Lilly, BMS).
According to a Forfás report on future skill needs of enterprise, published in February this year, critical shortages exist across a number of engineering disciplines as well as an acute need for technicians and senior process scientists and engineers in the medical-device sector. The report also states, “Ireland is likely to face an average increase in demand for high-level ICT skills of around 5% a year out to 2018.”
In the context of the increased demand for level 7 and level 8 qualifications, the Atlantic University Alliance (AUA) provides an innovative modular diploma and degree programme in Science and Technology Studies. This part-time programme is delivered using a combination of distance and on-line learning, as well as face-to-face tutorials, workshops and laboratory sessions that are normally held on Saturdays, mainly in NUI Galway but also UL.
The modular structure is developed for the busy professional and allows them to study when and where they want, and at a pace that suits.
The Programme in Science and Technology Studies was developed by academic staff in consultation with industry specifically to address current and future requirements of the high-tech sector. It offers a comprehensive range of traditional science, engineering and informatics subjects along with specialist modules so participants can focus on areas that are relevant to their career path.
The degree cycle offers specialist streams in: Medical Device Design, Lean and Quality Systems, Automation and Control, Form and Function of the Human Body and Environmental Sustainability. Company-based projects help participants to apply learning directly and immediately to the work-place and there is an emphasis on professional transferrable skills such as: problem-solving, critical thinking, decision-making, oral and communication, team-working, networking, customer-centric skills and creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.
People seeking to ‘fast track’ their careers or move into management roles should consider the programme, which has been developed order to address current and future requirements of the working environment. Furthermore, it improves employability for those seeking a career in a variety of technology-rich industries, such a manufacturing, biotechnology, biopharmaceuticals, medical and other precision devices.
Many employers have expressed a reluctance to employ graduates in recent years due to the lack of practical skills students may have entering the workplace for the first time.
“It’s fine to have a first- or second-class honours degree in your chosen field, but if you arrive in the workplace with no idea of how to apply those qualifications in a day-to-day work setting, or are unable to present theoretical knowledge in a practical way, then people are not going to hire you,’ said Nuala McGuinn, director of the Centre for Adult Learning and Professional Development at NUI Galway.
“Our experience is that industry is more interested in employing people who can hit the ground running, people who can problem solve and make decisions rather than those who in effect have to be trained up to industry level.”
Dr Brian Ó Donnchadha, the programme co-ordinator, said that one of the aspects that students found most attractive was the flexibility of the modular programme. “Depending on their circumstances, students can take between one and five modules each term, and complete a diploma or a degree over two or four years. We also have one-year specialist diploma courses at level 8.”
Conscious of the many demands placed on adult learners from a work and family perspective, all of the courses were developed on a modular basis to provide manageable, bite-sized chunks of learning, enabling participants to combine work and family commitments with the demands of a programme of study. Payment for the course is per module, on a semester by semester basis, and at €380 per module it is an affordable option for anyone considering further education.
LIFELONG LEARNING FOR PROFESSIONALS
The term ‘continued professional development’ (CPD) describes ongoing education to maintain and update the professional skills and knowledge necessary in a practitioners’ working life. The Programme in Science and Technology Studies offers over 50 modules that can be taken individually as CPD.
Given that in the coming years, Engineers Ireland will be requiring approximately 40 hours of CPD per annum as a membership criterion, CPD is an important requirement for which smart professionals are making provision.
Dr Ó Donnchadha says that taking CPD modules over a term rather than crammed into one or two working days is a more efficient way to learn. “The flexible structure gives professionals the opportunity to fit their education into their busy lives, allowing them the opportunity for deep learning in a supportive environment with highly trained tutors,” he said. “Keeping ahead of the curve is vital for job stability in an environment of continuous change.”
Blathnaid Bohan was struggling to break into the drug device industry after graduating from TCD with her Pharmacy degree. “I cannot recommend highly enough the Specialist Diploma in Medical Device Design offered by the AUA,” she said. “The specialist diploma opened many doors for me and just before graduating from the diploma I was offered a wonderful job with a leading orthopaedic device company. I am convinced that this was based solely on the specialist diploma I had completed.”
With the increased need for lean production, agile processes and cost-saving efficiency the high tech-industry is putting more emphasis on their quality assurance. Paul Carty, a senior lean engineer for a medical device manufacturer said: “The course provides students with advanced knowledge of the practical application of continuous improvement methodologies and their organisations with a completed, sustained continuous improvement project through the application of Lean Tools.”
Students also have the opportunity to get Green Belt certification in parallel with their AUA qualification.
According to Dr Ó Donnchadha, part of the success of the programme to date has been “our team of over 40 highly qualified and dedicated teaching staff who provide a supportive learning environment, both face to face and online, which is conducive to succeeding to gain a valuable qualification that is highly prized in the market place”. However, with student numbers growing year by year, the AUA appears to have found the formula for successful education in the area of science and technology.
AUA scholarships that cover 30% of the course fees are available to those with a disability or in receipt of social welfare. You will find detailed programme content, with an outline of all the modules on offer on the programme website www.aua.ie.
Applications are being accepted from now until Friday 27 June 2014. Demand is high, so early application is recommended. For any queries, call the programme administrator on 091 49 5845.http://www.engineersjournal.ie/2014/05/20/report-identifies-demand-for-skills-in-the-high-tech-sector/http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/iStock_000016420513Large-copy-1024x813.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/iStock_000016420513Large-copy-300x300.jpgNewseducation