Loose talk puts manufacturing jobs at risk

9 Dec 2005

Official Ireland needs to ‘talk up’ its manufacturing sector rather than talk it down with references to failing competitiveness and redundancies, the head of the department of Electronic and Mechanical Engineering at Sligo Institute of Technology Frank Carter has warned.

With 10pc of the workforce who are in manufacturing creating 40pc of Ireland’s gross domestic product (GDP) we should not create the perception that our manufacturing industry is under threat, Carter warned.

Colleges, he said, were having difficulty in recruiting students to study for careers in manufacturing because career guidance teachers believed there was no future in manufacturing. Without a source of highly trained, creative people to keep it competitive, manufacturing industry will be forced to go to where these skills are available, he warned.

Carter was speaking at the presentation of prizes to the winners of the first ever National Skills Competition in Mechatronics. Mechatronics is an innovative technology that combines mechanical design, automation, electronics, data communications, information technology and quality management in one integrated system.

The director of IT Sligo, Dr Richard Thorn, said the mechatronics competition maintained the long tradition of the institutes of technology being relevant to the world of industry. When they were set up one of their roles was to support the developing manufacturing sector. He predicted that Irish manufacturing had a “fantastic future” ahead if it adopted new technologies such as mechatronics.

Padraig Ó Murchú, Intel Ireland’s higher-education manager, urged education providers to offer courses and industrial placements in mechatronics. Intel had grown in 15 years to a global leading-edge technology campus employing 5,000 because of the quality of its employees. Now, as it started up its fourth fabrication facility, mechatronics was one of the key engineering skills it was always seeking to hire, he said.

By John Kennedy