As skill shortages continue, Engineers Ireland has welcomed a 10 per cent increase in the number of students receiving a round one offer to study a Level 8 engineering course.

The professional membership body for engineers in Ireland encouraged those who received a CAO offer of an engineering course to accept their offer and pursue a career in a rewarding sector that provides limitless opportunities.

Welcoming the 10 per cent increase (on 2018) in Level 8 round one offers for engineering courses, Engineers Ireland registrar and chartered engineer Damien Owens said: “We are encouraged by the increase in the numbers of students opting to pursue engineering at third-level and, in particular, the growth in the number of students choosing courses with a focus on sustainability and climate action.

'Critical to Irish society, our environment and economy'

“From clean water supplies and safe buildings to renewable energy and sustainable transport, engineers are critical to Irish society, our environment and economy. Ireland needs a steady supply of engineers, with the necessary skillset, to boost local economies, create new jobs, facilitate sustainable development and meet government ambitions, such as those outlined in the Climate Action Plan."

The continued upward trend in students selecting engineering courses at Irish third level institutions comes at a welcome time for the profession as demand continues to outstrip supply in the engineering sector.

“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.

According to findings from Engineers Ireland’s Engineering 2019 report, almost all (94 per cent) engineering employers consider a shortage of experienced engineers to be a barrier to growth. The National Skills Bulletin 2018, which informs government employment and education policy, also recognises shortages in almost all engineering occupations.

“There are serious skills shortages in the sector,” said Owens. “The current supply of third level graduates, particularly from Level 7 and Level 8 courses, is simply insufficient to meet the needs of our growing society.

"For example, in 2017, there were 3,865 graduates from Level 7 and Level 8 engineering courses, a 15 per cent decrease over the past five years.

Civil and building engineering graduates

"In relation specifically to civil and building engineering graduates on Level 7 and Level 8 courses, a 55 per cent decrease, also in the past five years, is an ongoing cause of concern with a mere 669 students graduating from these courses in 2017 compared with 1,494 in 2012.

“Given the level of demand by industry for a skilled labour force to create and fill the jobs of the future, we would urge students who have not obtained the required CAO points or who have not followed the traditional CAO pathway to consider all routes for a career in the sector, such as apprenticeships and other skills-based training.

"These routes will also offer a real opportunity to develop professional and technical skills which are valued by employers and are now so badly needed in industry."

Meanwhile, the CAO figures follow on from the news that the take-up of Leaving Certificate higher-level maths continues to go from strength to strength with the number of students taking the paper more than doubling since 2011.

Results obtained from the State Examinations Commission has shown that 18,153 students sat the paper this year, an increase of eight per cent on 2018. About 10,000 more students now sit the paper compared with eight years ago.

Engineers Ireland also highlighted that the number of students sitting STEM subjects (based on 11 subject areas) has also increased by five per cent, to more than 88,000 papers.

Strong increases were observed in the number of students taking higher level subjects related to engineering and construction, including mathematics (+1316), construction studies (+791), physics (+325) and technology (+255).