‘French has been hugely beneficial to me in my career’, says Ciarán MacSamhráin, LUAS engineer. ‘I was sent to La Rochelle for nine months as the client representative to supervise the manufacturing of LUAS trams. And now when a delivery of LUAS trams comes to Ireland, the trams are tested with ground staff who do not speak English. Had I no French, I would not have had the massive opportunities in life I have had.’
Ciaran tells the familiar story of someone who had those regular language skills most people tend to have when leaving school and never think they would need to use those skills - until work puts them in a situation where foreign languages are required. Real-life work situations are a common way to get motivated to brush up on a language, or to learn a new one.
An even better strategy is to choose languages in school where they are readily available, and keep up the language skills after leaving school. Languages modules, independent study or language courses are available at 3rd level and with language course providers.
For engineers language skills are a tangible skill which provide a strong combination of STEM and a communication tool. Engineering travels, it is a global business. Irish engineers can deal with French, Italian, German, Chinese or Scandinavian engineering companies in English, but not all of the foreign colleagues, suppliers or customers speak English. Even when they do, being able to manage one’s professional vocabulary in the other language is useful. Like Ciaran who as the client’s representative had to communicate with French colleagues who did not speak English, engineering work can put you in a situation where people share engineering skills but not necessarily the language skills.
To look at 3rd level engineering courses, one can see that engineering is described as a field which has an international element. UCD for example notes that ‘A world of opportunity awaits you as a UCD Engineering graduate and, as our programmes are professionally accredited, they are fully recognised internationally.’ It is expected that engineers are ready for the world, indeed some engineering students are now electing modules in German in anticipation of engineering opportunities which may involve Germany.
TU Dublin - Tallaght states ‘Our programmes are also well recognized internationally. We have partner institutions across 8 different countries. This brings a great dynamic to our degree programmes. It also gives our students opportunities to work on projects with engineering students in America, Canada, China and across Europe. We also have joint programmes with Nanjing Tech University in China as well as Shanghai Institute of Technology. Graduates have worked in Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, China and all across Europe. Their roles have varied across technician, engineer, sales, research, project manager, software developer, site manager. We have had graduates work in the ski slopes of Austria, electrical power plants in India...’
Ireland needs engineers. About 180 overseas engineering companies are based in Ireland, your ability to have a working knowledge of a foreign language could land you the job with a multinational engineering company. About 70% of Irish manufacturing is about exports, if you are involved in manufacturing, you are likely to be connected to overseas markets. Choose engineering, and complement your STEM skills with an ability to communicate in the global field of engineering.
Explore more career videos here.