Monday, 21 November 2011

Institutes of Technology Lead the Way

Last week I was privileged to be asked to a Workshop with the Institutes of Technology (IoT’s) in DIT to give the Response from Engineers Ireland to the June 2011 Report on Engineering Graduates: Preparation and Progression.

The Workshop was opened by Tom Boland CEO of the Higher Education Authority. The Report was then presented by DIT Dean of Engineering Mike Murphy and Athlone Institute of Technology Head of Engineering Austin Hanley. I then concluded with a speech that represented the Engineers Ireland Response to the Report.

In summary the Report stated that graduates found Engineering to be a fulfilling career and that 80% of employers found that IoT level 8 graduates (with honours degree) were progressing at a similar rate to other graduates. However only 64% of respondents found IoT graduates to be adequately prepared in non technical skills such as communications and commercial approach.

Pictured at the launch of the Engineering Graduates: Preparation and Progression report were back row l-r: Denis McFadden, LyIT; Eugene Roe, DkIT; Dr Joe Harrington, CIT; John Murphy, IT Tralee; James Shivnan, report author. Front row l-r: Albert Byrne, WIT; Austin Hanley, AIT; Dr Mike Murphy, DIT; and Pat O'Donnell, IT Tallaght. Pic: Maxwells
I do not find these results surprising but am not aware of any other Irish engineering college(s) who have carried out such evidence based research on this issue and have published it - so well done Mike and Austin and the other IT’s nationally.
Tom Boland in his opening remarks set the Report in the context of the recently published (January 2011) "National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030" talked of the 50% increase in the numbers in Third Level Education from 1995 to 2011 and a further projected increase of 70% up to 2030. 'If we cannot spend our way out of this recession then we will be able to educate our way out of it' he said drawing attention to the increased educational focus on 'learning outcomes'.

In my Response and Closing Remarks I complemented the Institutes for their work and wondered where do we go from here. 'The two most important stakeholders in our Third Level sector - graduates and employers - have spoken and we must listen. Their voices in this report are clear enough' I stated.

I called for greater emphasis on the 4Cs which the better employers are seeking from graduates across the globe - critical thinking, creativity/innovation, collaborative/team building and communications. 'It is also fortuitous for third level that it was the engineering sector who led this research for it is engineering that is leading the recovery of the Irish economy in terms of design manufacture and export of pharma, biomedical and ICT products and services' I remarked.

I reminded the audience of the important role that Engineers Ireland are playing through the STEPS programme at Primary and Second Level and Innovative Student Engineer of the Year at Third Level in addition to the Maths Grinds for both Leaving and Junior Cert levels.

Finally I played the new Engineers Ireland TV advert to show what role Engineers play in Irish society - 'bring dreams to life for me and you'

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