Dramatic increase in supply of civil engineers needed – report
12 March 2019
Supply must dramatically increase to meet Ireland’s current and future needs, Engineers Ireland report states, but engineering sector remains buoyant with widespread job opportunities in face of Brexit threat
The second in the annual series, Engineering 2019 captures trends in engineering employment, perspectives and education.
The supply of third-level engineering graduates and professional engineering apprentices must dramatically increase to meet the country’s current and future needs, a report by Engineers Ireland has stated.
The report found that the 55 per cent decrease in civil and building engineering graduates over the last five years was ‘a particular cause of concern’, although it did note that there had been a 48 per cent increase in entrants to civil and building engineering courses in higher education albeit from a low base since 2012.
Continuing buoyancy in the engineering sector
There is continuing buoyancy in the engineering sector according to the report, with 77 per cent of employers’ financial position improving in 2018 and 89 per cent expecting their financial position to improve in 2019 despite Brexit uncertainties.
To ensure that its members’ ability to work across jurisdictions is not impacted negatively by Brexit, Engineers Ireland has also reached strategic agreements with peer organisations in the UK, the report said.
This positive business performance is translating into significant demand for engineers the report said, with more than 6,000 job openings expected this year and graduate salaries (on average €33,750), up 21 per cent since 2014.
Almost all (94 per cent) engineering employers surveyed however consider a shortage of experienced engineers to be a barrier to growth – and almost half expect this situation to get worse in 2019. Civil and building engineers are most in demand with 59 per cent of organisations surveyed looking to hire engineers in this discipline.
The report, titled ‘Engineering 2019: A barometer of the profession in Ireland’, was unveiled by Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh TD, as part of Engineers Week 2019 which runs until March 8.
‘Critical need for engineering skills to drive innovation’
Minister McHugh said: “This Engineers Ireland report strongly articulates the critical need for engineering skills to drive innovation in Ireland and to deliver vital services and projects in our communities.
“It is an expert and timely contribution to the government’s planning in this respect. And it is also highlighting the huge opportunities that are out there now for engineers and for graduates coming through the system.
“We are fully committed to working with industry and bodies like Engineers Ireland across the full spectrum of the education system to ensure we have the necessary STEM, ICT and digital skills that are needed to sustain our economic growth.”
Engineers Ireland director general Caroline Spillane said: “The current reality is that the number of students moving into third-level engineering and technology sectors needs to be much larger to meet our country’s current and future needs.
“With a mere 35 per cent of the parents of secondary school children that we surveyed confident in explaining what an engineer does, as a society we need to collectively do more to inform the public about the importance and diversity of the modern engineer.
“Junior Certificate results have shown that Irish students have a strong appetite for STEM. Now, more than ever, we need to retain this interest, particularly among females, and convert it into more third-level graduates – and ultimately more engineers entering into industry to fill the huge number of job vacancies that exist in Ireland.”
Growing emphasis on communication skills
In the continuing and growing emphasis in the engineering sector on communication skills, the report found that 77 per cent of engineering employers viewed communication skills as ‘very important’, with effective communication and teamwork viewed as just as (or even more) important than fundamental engineering knowledge.
To ensure they have the skills and expertise to undertake future projects, engineering organisations said they have been investing in upskilling/reskilling current employees (66 per cent) and collaborating with education institutions (64 per cent), according to the report.
The launch of ‘Engineering 2019: A barometer of the profession in Ireland’ at Engineers Ireland’s offices also included a panel discussion involving Professor David FitzPatrick, president of Ireland’s first technological university, TU Dublin; Joe English, lithography department manager, Intel; and Caroline Herlihy, managing director, Global Professional Consultants.
The second in the annual series, Engineering 2019 captures trends in engineering employment, perspectives and education. This year’s report was based on three surveys conducted between October 2018 and February 2019 of qualified engineers, engineering employers and the general public.
These findings were complemented by summaries of data collected by other organisations such as the Central Statistics Office, Higher Education Authority and State Examinations Commission.
Engineers Ireland is exploring a variety of solutions to overcome engineering skills shortages, including: building new initiatives to increase the number of higher-education engineering graduates; greater promotion of professional engineering apprenticeships; upskilling/reskilling those qualified/working in other fields; engaging with Irish engineers working abroad; attracting international engineers to Ireland; and better retaining qualified engineers in the profession.
Four key trends
The final section of the report outlines four key trends, based on the preceding data, in engineering employment, perspectives and education. Understanding these trends helps Engineers Ireland and our members to advocate for the engineering profession and to deliver solutions for society.
These trends also hold important lessons for industry, educational institutions, state bodies and industry who will all be instrumental in preparing Ireland for further changes in how we live, work and communicate.
Trend 1: Demand for engineers grows
The engineering employers we surveyed reported strong financial performance in 2018 with 77 per cent growing their business, up from 63 per cent in 2017. Only six per cent of them experienced a decrease in their financial performance.
These results echo the growth seen in engineering-related sectors of economy, as measured by the CSO. Engineering organisation’s outlook for the remainder of 2019 is even more positive with 89 per cent expecting their financial position to improve.
This business performance is translating into significant demand for engineers across each of the sectors studied in this report. We derived an estimate of 6,014 for the number of engineers employers would like to recruit this year.
Consulting engineering companies have the most ambitious recruitment plans and the demand for civil and building engineers is striking. The high level of demand for engineers has seen graduate engineer salaries increase by 21 per cent in the past five years to €33,750.
Employers continue to value the chartered engineer title awarded by Engineers Ireland (which recognises professional expertise, leadership and ethical practice) such that chartered engineers earn €5,000 more per year than their untitled peers with the same number of years of experience.
For example, the typical engineer with six to 10 years’ experience and without a professional title earns €45,000, while a chartered engineer who graduated in the same year earns €50,000 on average.
Trend 2: Skills shortages become more acute
In last year’s report, most employers told us that there was an inadequate supply of engineers to meet their needs in the medium term. This year, skills shortages have become more acute and the evidence of this has become even clearer.
Almost all (94 per cent) engineering employers consider a shortage of experienced engineers to be a barrier to growth – and 48 per cent expect this situation to get worse in the year ahead.
The National Skills Bulletin 2018, which informs government employment and education policy, now recognises shortages in almost all engineering occupations. While this means that there are plenty of job opportunities for engineering graduates, these skills shortages are restricting growth and the delivery of key projects.
It is now a very real concern that shortages of civil and building engineers, mechanical and electrical engineers and other construction professionals could undermine the delivery of the National Development Plan 2018-2027.
In this context, it is noteworthy that civil engineers are not included in the Highly Skilled Eligible Occupations List. By including civil engineers on this List, these professionals would become eligible for Critical Skills Employment Permits. In 2017, just 15 employment permits were issued to non-EEA national civil engineers/construction project managers.
Engineers Ireland is exploring a variety of solutions to overcome engineering skills shortages, including but not limited to:
• Increasing the number of engineering graduates from higher education;
• Promoting professional engineering apprenticeships;
• Upskilling/reskilling those qualified/working in other fields;
• Engaging with Irish engineers working abroad;
• Attracting international engineers to Ireland;
• Retaining qualified engineers in the profession.
Trend 3: Importance of demystifying engineering
A mere 43 per cent of Irish adults would feel confident explaining engineering. Digging deeper into the results of our public poll shows that confidence explaining engineering is particularly low for women (36 per cent) and the parents of secondary school children (35 per cent).
Demystifying engineering and promoting engineering as a career choice, particularly to young women, should be regarded as a challenge for all engineers and all those who promote STEM careers.
An initiative which is bearing fruit in this regard is Engineering Your Future, run by Engineers Ireland’s STEPS Programme (funded by the SFI Discover Programme). Engineering Your Future introduces transition year students to the exciting and diverse world of engineering through immersive week-long experiences on higher education campuses throughout the country.
Students gain hands-on experience of engineering through activities such as workshops, group projects, and industry visits. Engineering Your Future is complemented by other STEPS activities such as Engineers Week and the Young Engineers Award.
Trend 4: Committing to lifelong learning
In an era of digitalisation and rapidly-changing skills needs, lifelong learning is becoming increasingly important. Attaining a professional qualification is not the end of an engineer’s professional development, it is just one stage in the process of lifelong learning.
On joining Engineers Ireland, all members make a fundamental commitment to ongoing self-improvement. It is this underpinning ethos – the professional obligation to learn – that is a decisive contributor to the credibility in society of the engineering profession.
When identifying Continuing Professional Development (CPD), engineers, their employers and others should not only consider new technical competences, they should explore skills in emotional intelligence, creativity, communication, ethics and leadership.
There is a very wide variety of learning activities that count as Engineers Ireland CPD – it is not just about attending paid courses and most incur no cost other than time. Engineers Ireland’s MyCPD tool allows members to plan, record, reflect upon and refer to their CPD activities at any time.
To access the Engineering 2019 report in full, visit www.engineersireland.iehttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/2019/03/12/dramatic-increase-in-supply-of-civil-engineers-needed-report/http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/GettyImages-500231160-1024x683.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/GettyImages-500231160-300x300.jpgCivilconstruction,Engineers Ireland,STEM