Prof Orla Feely, the chair of the Irish Research Council, recognises that much work remains on building up Ireland’s numbers in the areas of ICT and STEM talent, but she is optimistic that good progress is being made. That said, she believes Ireland’s achievements and talent in engineering is something it needs to be proud of and further fostered.
The Irish Research Council (IRC) was created in 2012, through the merger of the Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS) and the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET), and funds Irish-based researchers.
“We fund the best and the brightest of our post-graduate and post-doctoral population to engage in research to come up with creative projects,” Feely explains of the new body. “And we seek to do that in a way that improves their training and education and their fit to contribute to the jobs market, and the social and economic requirements of the country.”
Wanted: skilled graduates
In her IRC role, and in her role as a professor in the School of Electrical, Electronic and Communications Engineering in University College Dublin, Feely sees first hand the industry need for an increase in the number of skilled graduates and researchers. She is quick to point out that the quality of Ireland’s graduates is second to none, but that the big ICT companies are looking for three or four times the number that are coming out of, for example, electronic engineering.
She believes there is progress being made, however. “Certainly at undergraduate level we are seeing students in electronic engineering come to us in numbers that we had not seen in many, many years,” she says. “And we are also seeing an increase in applications from international students, both at post-graduate and undergraduate level.”
Feely believes Ireland’s engineering heritage is a largely unsung one in the country. “Our engineering achievements in Ireland over the last few decades have been remarkable. Many of us who graduated in the Eighties went to the US, to Europe, Australia, but we gathered experiences and achievements there and in many cases brought them back to Ireland. We saw in the early years of the Celtic Tiger how that cohort of highly trained engineers can transform an economy and transform a country.”
“Yet, we have somehow at a national level not recognised this huge contribution to our economy, this great characteristic of this country as it now is,” she continues. “So I think we need to be more aware of our engineering talent in Ireland and what we need to do to foster it and to build on it.”
Watch the video below to hear Feely explain the role of the Irish Research Council in funding Ireland’s best researchers, how it links industry with these researchers, and to hear her views on how Ireland tackles the skills challenge:
Prof Orla Feely is a panelist at the Future Jobs Forum, where international keynotes and local leaders will discuss Ireland’s challenges and opportunities in the global battle for talent, on 8 February at The Convention Centre Dublin
Engineering image via Shutterstock