Concern over STEM subject numbers as demand for talent outstrips supply – Engineers Ireland


Third of Leaving Cert pupils sat higher level maths in 2018 – a rise of 104% compared with 2011, while STEM choice remains steady but cause for concern as industry demand outstrips supply

Engineers Ireland has welcomed the continued growth in the number of students sitting the higher-level Leaving Certificate mathematics paper. Results obtained from the State Examinations Commission has shown that almost a third of Leaving Certificate students sat the higher level mathematics paper in 2018, a figure that has more than doubled when compared with 2011.

Small rise in students sitting higher level biology

There has also been a small increase in students sitting the higher level biology paper, with almost 46 per cent of students taking the subject in 2018, an increase of almost one per cent when compared with 2017 sittings.

However, the representative body for engineers, whose membership represents the full spectrum of the engineering profession in Ireland, has also highlighted their concerns as the number of students sitting STEM subjects (based on 11 subject areas) has not seen a marked increase for the first time in several years.

Engineers Ireland registrar Damien Owens said: “Maths and science knowledge are valuable aptitudes for future engineers. Now, more than ever, we need to encourage students at primary and post-primary levels to equip themselves with an adequate knowledge of STEM, to study engineering at third level and go on to work in the profession.

 “Our organisation is very active in this area with our STEPS programme – funded under Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover Programme Call – which encourages primary and post-primary students to explore the world of STEM, while promoting engineering as a study and career choice.”

Public confidence in sector has grown

Public confidence in the engineering sector has grown, with a recent survey by Engineers Ireland highlighting that 67 per cent of the public agree that there are plenty of jobs in the sector in Ireland, compared with a mere 22 per cent four years ago.

Industry demand for engineering talent has also seen graduate engineer starting salaries increase by 11 per cent in the past four years. However, as industry demand continues, Ireland has an acute shortage of engineering skills that could undermine the government’s Project Ireland 2040 goals.

There are major concerns regarding a shortage of civil and building engineering graduates, the numbers of which decreased by 45 per cent in the past five years.

 “We are seeing new job opportunities for graduates and increasing salaries within the engineering sector, but there continues to be a shortfall of engineers to meet the needs of industry,” said Owens.

Future engineering graduates central to success of initiatives

“Our future engineering graduates will be central to the successfully delivery of the ambitious new infrastructural and technological initiatives that have been outlined in Project Ireland 2040.”

He concluded by encouraging students selecting their school subjects this autumn to focus on STEM and to consider a future career in engineering: “The world of engineering is open to everyone – girls, boys, creative thinkers, curious minds, problem solvers and leaders.

 “Maths and science knowledge are valuable aptitudes for an engineer; however, a basic curiosity and ability to analyse the real world are also key to a lifetime of rewarding career opportunities in the engineering sector.”

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