Overhead shot of a large crowd of people gathered in Shannon Airport departures hall among exhibition stands and displays.
The Limerick for Engineering Showcase at Shannon Airport. Image: Engineers Ireland

For quality and quantity, try Limerick for Engineering

5 Mar 2019

Barry Lowe, engineering manager at Lufthansa Technik Turbine Shannon, highlights how engineering talent development is critically important to the future success of Limerick and the mid-west.

Over the last five years at Lufthansa Technik Turbine Shannon (LTTS) we have become increasingly focused on talent development. We recognise the strategic importance of talent development within our engineering team in order to support future product and technology development plans for our company. As the country reaches full employment and talent shortage in industry intensifies, talent development is critically important to our future success.

Developing engineering talent at work

Our first step was to establish a structured approach to learning and development to ensure alignment with our vision for our future business. We identified the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Accredited Employer Standard from Engineers Ireland as a comprehensive and well-structured programme to support our talent development.

The standard is based on seven core criteria that span “aligning CPD outcomes to organisational strategy” to “establishment of external learning linkages”. It is not overly prescriptive, allowing each organisation the flexibility to tailor their programme within the set framework.

Implementation of the Employer Standard within LTTS was and continues to be a very collaborative process between management and employees, resulting in a win-win outcome as it benefits both the organisation and individual personal development.

Having achieved the CPD Accredited Employer Standard, we now have a comprehensive system for managing our talent development in line with the future needs of our company. It provides a basis for determining competency requirements and potential gaps that need to be addressed through our employee development activities. The programme also encourages our engineers to be more externally focused to help inspire innovation and creativity. This is extremely important in a rapidly changing environment, including industry 4.0 and digitalisation.

Engineering for the mid-west region

LTTS joined Limerick for Engineering, an industry-led initiative that has the support of the education and training providers in the region, having identified it as an important external linkage to support our talent development.

Established in 2015, the primary goal of Limerick for Engineering is to increase the quality and quantity of engineering talent (apprentices, technicians and engineers) available in the region. Industry members and academic partners (including the Limerick Institute of Technology, University of Limerick, and the Limerick Clare Education and Training Board) form a plenary group that oversees three working groups – the showcase group, the promotions and identity group, and the talent group – each being led by an industry member.

Engaging future generations of engineers

The Limerick for Engineering Showcase is an annual event that takes place in March to coincide with Engineers Week. The event is an exhibition of the careers that are available in engineering in our region. This coming Thursday, 7 March, more than 40 organisations, training providers and representatives from third-level institutions across the region will take part in the event in the departures hall at Shannon Airport – the world’s first free-trade zone, which also has a long tradition with industrial development in the Shannon region.

Last year, the event was attended by more than 1,500 students and parents, and proved very effective in generating interest in careers in engineering. Exhibitors included many of the best manufacturing companies in the mid-west region, including Analog Devices, Cook Medical, Regeneron, Stryker, Roadbridge, Intel, Molex, General Electric, SL Controls, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Dell, Jaguar Land Rover, Lufthansa Technik, Modular Automation and Zimmer.

‘It shows the fact that these jobs are interesting, challenging and very well paid, and, most importantly, they do not have to leave this region to have it all’

The event provided students and their parents with an excellent opportunity to meet young engineers working in a wide variety of industries, including electronics, medical devices, aerospace and automotive. They could speak with engineers from many different disciplines in a variety of engineering jobs, including research and development, design, production, materials, and maintenance, to help them get a better understanding of the various roles.

Paschal Meehan, dean of work-based learning and vice-president of international engagement at Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT), aptly commented that, “The purpose of the showcase is to demonstrate to young people and their parents what it is they would do if they worked as an engineer or technician in the participating companies. It shows the variety of jobs; the opportunities for long-term careers; the fact that the jobs are interesting, challenging and very well paid; and, most importantly, they do not have to leave this region to have it all.”

Towards a diverse future

The Limerick for Engineering promotions and identity group is responsible for marketing and communications to engage with second-level students and their parents with relevant messages that create a curiosity around engineering. This group also develops links with local schools to promote careers in engineering among students and teachers, and also attends high-profile career events in our region.

We actively promote diversity within engineering to attract more people to pursue careers in engineering. For example, the Limerick for Engineering ‘Inspire’ Women for Engineering event, recently hosted by LIT at Moylish Campus, was organised to give young women in fourth, fifth and sixth year an insight into engineering in the STEM industries. The students were addressed by inspirational speakers, including Dr Norah Patten, entrepreneur; Samira Kaissi, site lead at BD-GenCell Biosystems; Gráinne Barry, regional operations director of EMEA at STATS and co-founder of SportsTech Ireland; and Marian Corcoran, independent director, coach and business leader. The Inspire event had 350 girls in attendance along with their teachers and a cohort of industry representatives.

Quality through education

While the showcase and promotions and identity groups focus on attracting more students to pursue careers in engineering (increasing the quantity), the talent group at Limerick for Engineering is focused on talent development (increasing the quality) in our region. This group identifies future industry talent needs and works with the education providers to develop courses and programmes to meet these future needs.

An important aspect of talent development is to provide employees with career path options to be able to progress from operative to technician and engineer. Given the transformation that is taking place in Ireland with apprenticeships, the talent group works with the education and training providers to develop new apprenticeships to meet industry needs in new technological areas such as vision systems (Level 7 at LIT) and professional skills for graduate engineers (Level 9 at University of Limerick). They are currently working on a Level 8 automation and robotics course.

Collaboration for a common purpose

Limerick for Engineering is an excellent network of organisations and people with a common purpose. It is all about collaboration, which is at the heart of the success being experienced in our region. The component parts of Limerick for Engineering exist in every region but the lubricant that makes everything work is the people.

The mid-west region has more than 1,500 companies that employ engineers and, given the forecast growth, there will be an increasing demand for engineering talent. The innovations that are taking place within manufacturing, such as industry 4.0 and digitalisation, are driving the evolution of new roles and skills requirements. Therefore, the initiatives being pursued in our region are strategically important to sustain future growth.

We all have a responsibility to support these initiatives and remember the importance of collaboration towards our common goal.

By Barry Lowe

Barry Lowe is the engineering manager at Lufthansa Technik Turbine Shannon, a leading aero engine parts repair facility in Shannon. He is the current chair of Engineers Ireland Thomond Region and is a strong advocate for continuing professional development.

Second-level students, parents of school-going children, teachers, career guidance counsellors and those curious about the ever-developing world of engineering are all invited to attend the Limerick for Engineering Showcase. This free event will showcase the diverse range of engineering careers available with companies in the mid-west region.

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