Crisis shortage of Civil Engineering graduates in Ireland
A letter from the Engineering Heads of Department in NUIG, TCD and UCC.
The Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering profession is responsible for developing the built infrastructure on which successful societies and economies depend. The profession in Ireland has recovered very strongly after a few difficult years immediately following the national economic downturn. The Ulster Bank Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), which tracks the sector’s performance on a monthly basis, has indicated continuous aggregate growth over three key categories: housing, commercial building and civil engineering for 21 months to May 2015. According to a CSO Quarterly National Household Survey, employment in the construction sector grew by 6,300 to 122,700 in Q1-2015 following an increase of 13,100 in 2014, welcomed by the Construction Industry Federation as a sign of continued recovery in the sector. In a report carried out in conjunction with Engineers Ireland, recruitment consultants Hays noted a 93% increase in the number of construction and property jobs on offer during the first six months of 2014, when compared with the same period in 2013. However, it seems that positive developments in the profession have yet to be appreciated by the general public, or by second level students considering their future careers.
For the past few years student intake into civil engineering degree programmes has been lower than the industry demand, and there is now a real shortage of young Civil Engineers to meet the current workload of Irish companies. Employment demands in the sector are set to rise further as major engineering works are being planned for the near future, such as Metro North, the Dublin Water Supply Project and the Galway City Bypass. In addition to Metro North, the €27 billion capital plan recently announced by the government will also invest in improved school and hospital infrastructure as well as flood defences, all of which will create an increased demand for civil engineers. This current shortage is flagged in the aforementioned Hays report, where it is also acknowledged that the numbers pursuing construction courses at third level is insufficient to meet industry demands in the coming years. There is also a shortage of Civil Engineers in many countries worldwide as the global recession recedes; the USA and UK economies are developing apace and engineering companies are recruiting large numbers of Civil Engineers, including Irish graduates. It is clear that now is a great time for school-leavers to study Civil Engineering at third-level.
There appears to be a misconception in Ireland that Civil Engineers work mainly in house building. In 2006, the amount of housing units completed per capita was approximately 7.5 times that of the UK, which was unsustainable. The drop in levels of housebuilding since has led people to assume incorrectly that Civil Engineering is a profession with limited prospects. Even though there will be an increasing demand for new housing and commercial building development over the next 5-10 years, house building will remain only a minor part of the broad scope of Civil Engineering. Civil engineers are responsible for the sustainable design, construction and maintenance of buildings, bridges, roads, dams, tunnels, water and wastewater treatment facilities and transportation systems. Exciting new applications within the sector include energy management in buildings, wind/wave/tidal energy generation and conversion of waste to a source of energy. All of these offer exciting opportunities for young people hoping to embark on stimulating and rewarding careers.
For further details on opportunities within the profession and degree courses at NUI Galway, Trinity College Dublin and University College Cork, please contact Dr. Bryan McCabe (firstname.lastname@example.org, 091-492021), Prof. Brian Broderick (email@example.com, 01-8962348) or Prof. Gerard Kiely (firstname.lastname@example.org, 021-4902965)