Young people are protesting for action against the climate crisis.
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Engineers Ireland says skills are needed to tackle the climate emergency

4 Mar 2020

The Engineers Ireland council has emphasised that engineers must work to ensure universal access to clean water, sanitation, reliable energy and other basic human needs.

Today (4 March) is World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development. To mark the global event, Engineers Ireland has launched its Engineering 2020 barometer report, which this year is focusing on the theme of sustainability.

It highlights, for example, the need for sustainability education in third-level engineering courses and, on a wider level, looks at the digital skills and future technologies crucial to the industry’s progression.

It also outlines that almost two-thirds of adults in Ireland – and three-quarters of 16 to 24-year-olds – want to learn about new ideas in STEM, particularly around health, climate action and education.

The report’s authors state that Ireland is in need of an education system that will produce more engineering graduates with the skills needed to address the climate crisis.

Ireland’s former permanent representative to the UN, David Donoghue, spoke at the launch of the report, which includes survey results from more than 2,000 engineers, 1,000 representative members of the public, 150 engineering leaders and 90 engineering academics.

The climate crisis needs engineers

The study found that almost three-quarters of the Irish public surveyed believe that engineers have an “ethical obligation to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss”. Donoghue added that engineers must work to ensure that everyone in the world has access to clean water, sanitation, reliable energy and other basic human needs.

“Engineers are central to sustainable development and are uniquely placed to help the world meet critical goals including ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring prosperity for all,” he said.

“Ireland’s education system should help the country to address the challenges set out in areas such as climate change, clean energy, water quality and manufacturing by producing graduates and professionals with the critical skills and expertise required.”

Engineers Ireland president Marguerite Sayers declared a climate and biodiversity emergency following a motion at the Engineers Ireland council.

“Engineers Ireland recognises that climate breakdown and biodiversity collapse are the most serious issues of our time,” Sayers said. “The planet has ecological limits and a finite biocapacity, and a paradigm shift is required to realign humanity’s ecological footprint within this capacity.

“Engineers Ireland is adding our voice to those of professional bodies and other organisations around the world by declaring a climate and biodiversity emergency.

“We will be a leading voice for sustainability and our members will take action to address the impact of the emergency.”

‘Pushing the limits of ingenuity and innovation’

Caroline Spillane, director general of Engineers Ireland, spoke about the importance of recognising the role engineering plays in sustainable development.

“The first annual World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development [is] a UNESCO international day to highlight the achievements of engineers and engineering in our modern world and improve public understanding of how engineering and technology is central to modern life and sustainable development,” she said.

“We are delighted that World Engineering Day takes place during our STEPS Engineers Week, which brings the fascinating world of engineering to life in communities throughout Ireland.

“This week aims to inspire today’s children to engineer the Ireland of tomorrow. STEPS Engineers Week is a fantastic week to showcase the profession to primary and secondary students and highlight the ways engineers in Ireland are pushing the limits of ingenuity and innovation.”

Continued skills shortages

Employers told Engineers Ireland that they want to recruit more than 5,000 engineers in 2020, which Spillane described as “hugely encouraging”. However, skills shortages continue to be a major concern, the report says, with 91pc of engineering leaders citing this as an obstacle to growing their workforce.

“But the challenge is to ensure the supply of talent is there,” she added. “That is why support for campaigns like STEPS Engineers Week is so vitally important – not just to the sector, but to Ireland’s future skills needs.”

According to the report, engineering companies have been making efforts to address the skills shortage in a variety of ways. These include investing in upskilling and reskilling current employees, offering flexible working options and collaborating with educational institutions.

It also states that communication, management, digitalisation and sustainability will be the most in-demand engineering skills over the next 10 years.

“Engineers Week and World Engineering Day are opportunities to highlight how a career in engineering is accessible to all those who have an interest in the sector,” Spillane said.

“There are many misconceptions about the type of person who should pursue engineering and we can show people that the world of engineering is open to everyone – girls, boys, creative thinkers, curious minds, problem-solvers and leaders.”

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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