Engineers Ireland is committed to having the voice of the engineer heard in the public policy discourse - providing leadership on engineering issues as well as, more broadly, sustainability, wellbeing and innovation, writes Richard Manton
Civil

Engineers Ireland is committed to having the voice of the engineer heard in the public policy discourse – providing leadership on engineering issues as well as, more broadly, sustainability, wellbeing and innovation.

We engage extensively with our membership to develop policy positions and we support our advocacy with research and evidence. This policy work is a core component of our strategic objective to build the profile and enhance the status and reputation of the engineering profession.

Throughout 2018, we held briefings with politicians and policymakers at all levels, including ministers, TDs and senators.

We also appeared at an Oireachtas committee, presented to many department officials and lodged 12 written submissions to public consultations covering areas as diverse as building regulations, spatial planning, infrastructure, manufacturing and education.

Minister Heather Humphreys addresses a gathering at Clyde Road

These representations are each built on our members’ expert contributions, particularly from our regional branches, engineering divisions and societies.

You can find each policy representation listed on the Lobby Register, while all written submissions are published on our website.

Thanks to our marketing and communications team, our policy recommendations have achieved high-profile media attention, keeping Clyde Road in the public eye.

Advising Project Ireland 2040


A highlight of 2018 was the publication of Project Ireland 2040, comprising the National Development Plan and National Planning Framework. Represented by our immediate past president, Dr Kieran Feighan, Engineers Ireland was proud to advise government on this critical framework for the future development of our country (listen here).

We consistently advocated for greater capital investment as part of a long-term and sustainable approach to spatial planning.

Appropriately, the National Development Plan 2018-2027 sets out a 10-year pipeline of infrastructure projects which is now inspiring confidence in the engineering and construction sectors.

Engineers Ireland also raised the importance of institutional reform to ensure the integrated and streamlined delivery of priority infrastructure projects and to achieve value for money. You can read our statement on Project Ireland 2040 on our website.

Highlighting skills shortages


In February, we published ‘Engineering 2018: A barometer of the profession in Ireland’, which tracked developments in engineering education, employment and perspectives. The report promotes the value of the profession and is a comprehensive statistical resource for members and their organisations.

The report is the product of extensive data collection and analysis, including surveys of almost 250 engineering employers and more than 2,000 Engineers Ireland members, a public poll carried out by Behaviour & Attitudes, complemented by data from the census, higher education and secondary education. You can read the Engineering 2018 report on our website.

Speakers from DCU, Arup, Google and Morgan McKinley launch the Engineering 2018 report

The report demonstrated the strong growth in the engineering industry over the past year: 60 per cent employers said their financial position improved or greatly improved and 83 per cent recruited engineers in the past year.

The employers were even more positive regarding the year ahead with 79 per cent expecting their businesses to grow in 2018.

Meanwhile, the public poll showed that engineers are among the most trusted professionals in Ireland with 91 per cent of adults regarding engineers as highly competent.

The report also highlighted the challenges facing the profession, in particular skills shortages and the gender gap.

Our findings centre on the promotion of STEM education and one of our recommendations in this area – to foster critical thinking and problem solving from an early age – was featured in ‘Forbes’ magazine.

Giving evidence to the Oireachtas Housing Committee


In April, council member John Bailey and I provided evidence to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government on the Vacant Housing Refurbishment Bill.

We welcomed the bill in principle as it endeavours to increase the delivery of much-needed units of accommodation. If done correctly, bringing vacant properties into residential use could also revitalise villages, towns and cities.

However, we argued that the bill, as currently drafted, has the potential for unintended consequences such as compromising building standards and safety. You can read Engineers Ireland’s opening statement to the committee here and you can watch the playback of the proceedings here (1:54:00).

Engineers Ireland continues to advocate for strong building regulations and for maintaining the role of chartered engineers in the building control regulations.

Council member John Bailey addresses the Oireachtas Housing Committee

Assessing infrastructure deficits


In July, we published ‘The State of Ireland 2018: A review of infrastructure in Ireland’ report. This was the eighth in instalment in our annual assessment of Ireland’s infrastructure.

The report was the product of 10 meetings of two expert advisory groups (comprising more than 40 engineers) over the course of six months.

Our assessment focused on the water/wastewater and flooding sectors, both of which we gave a ‘C’ grade – meaning infrastructure that is inadequately maintained, unable to meet peak demand and requiring significant investment.

The report set out two-year and five-year recommendations to meet environmental, social and economic challenges in these sectors. Highlights included the progression of the Eastern & Midlands Water Supply Project and the implementation of the Flood Risk Management Plans.

The report was launched at Clyde Road by the Minister for Business, Enterprise & Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD. Our guest panellists included Evelyn Cusack, head of forecasting at Met Éireann and Richard Crowe, MD of Nicholas O’Dwyer Ltd.

The report and its recommendations received extensive coverage in the media, raising the profile of our profession and organisation.

President Peter Quinn and director general Caroline Spillane and appeared on RTÉ ‘Six One News’, while the report’s analysis was also featured on radio and in all major national newspapers. You can read the State of Ireland 2018 report on our website.

RTÉ Six One News opens with a segment on The State of Ireland 2018 report

Influencing Budget 2019


In Budget 2019 in October, we were very pleased to see the €1.5 billion increase in capital investment to help overcome deficits in housing, water, transport and other sectors.

In our pre-budget submission and our representations throughout the year, we argued strongly for this investment boost and we were very glad to see this hard work bear fruit.

Housing is another big concern in our deliberations with elected representatives. We believe that housing supply must continue to increase, with the emphasis on new developments and renovations, yielding high-quality homes.

In relation to other aspects of the budget, we have remaining concerns around education investment and climate action. Our response to the budget is available on our website.

Preparing Ireland for Industry 4.0


In November, Engineers Ireland launched our policy statement on Industry 4.0, the 4th Industrial Revolution, and its implications for Irish manufacturing.

The policy statement considers the current state of play and Ireland’s ability to maximise the benefits of implementing Industry 4.0 techniques and technologies as appropriate.

At the launch event, Caroline Spillane, director general, and Paul Dillon and Conor Sheehan (mechanical & manufacturing division) emphasised that national action is now needed, as a matter of urgency, to prepare Ireland for Industry 4.0 and to ensure that our manufacturing base survives and flourishes in the future providing high-value employment and growing exports.

Minister Richard Bruton and director general Caroline Spillane during Engineers Week 2018

You can read the policy statement online. We are holding engagements with the Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation, NSAI and other bodies to communicate our message.

Looking forward to 2019


In 2019, we will continue to advocate on behalf of the engineering profession, bringing the expertise of our members to bear on public policy.

For example, we have secured a seat on the government’s construction sector group to ensure the voice of our membership will continue to be heard on critically important issues for our growing society.

If you would like to get involved in Engineers Ireland’s policy and advocacy work, please contact me at rmanton@engineersireland.ie

Author: Richard Manton, deputy registrar and policy officer, Engineers Ireland

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Engineers Ireland is committed to having the voice of the engineer heard in the public policy discourse - providing leadership on engineering issues as well as, more broadly, sustainability, wellbeing and innovation. We engage extensively with our membership to develop policy positions and we support our advocacy with research and...