Worrying trends in CAO first-round offerings

18 Aug 2008

The poor uptake in science, technology, engineering and maths in this morning’s first-round CAO offerings is causing concern in the ICT and engineering sectors.

The first CAO offers showed that points for engineering courses, for example, in Dublin Institute of Technology and University College Dublin have dropped by 20 points, while National University of Ireland Galway and Dublin City University have reduced their points’ entry requirement by 45.

These adjustments are happening despite a bumper 68,112 CAO applications for college entry— up 3pc on last year.

Managing director of HP Ireland Martin Murphy says the downward trend in the numbers of students taking up computing, IT and engineering is very worrying because a skills shortage makes it harder to justify new investments here.

“The Government needs to demonstrate that it takes this seriously and must show more leadership and commitment to making these subjects attractive to students,” he said.

“Andrew Bree’s time in the 200m breaststroke semi-final last week would have won him gold at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, but in 2008 it wasn’t enough for him to even make the final. The competition for global foreign direct investment is just as fierce.”

Murphy reckons we should take our lead from the C2k system in Northern Ireland, which brings technology into the heart of the classroom.

“The results speak for themselves — Northern Ireland students again dramatically outperformed their counterparts in last week’s A-level results, with almost 30pc achieving A grades, while the England and Wales average was closer to 20pc,” he said.

Meanwhile, Margie McCarthy, membership director of Engineers Ireland, said it was worrying that colleges are having difficulty filling engineering places, despite a record increase in CAO offers.

“This is disappointing in light of the fact that the recent Engineers Ireland salary survey has shown that graduates can enjoy a starting salary of as much as €31,000,” she said.

“Despite the current downturn, we still see notable job opportunities in pharmaceuticals, medical devices, environmental engineering, as well as demand for process and project engineers.

“But if we don’t get more engineers, the ‘green’ agenda, for example, will take longer to implement.”

Sorcha Corcoran