Key points for selected engineering occupations
- There were approximately 26,000 persons employed in the selected engineering occupations, representing 1.4% of national employment
- Approximately one half of overall employment in the selected occupations was concentrated in manufacturing (mostly high tech and machinery/equipment manufacturing) while almost an additional one fifth was concentrated in professional, scientific and technical activities (mostly engineering, technical testing and analysis)
- Just under 60% of total employment in the selected engineering occupations was at professional level (i.e. engineers); the remainder was at technician level
- Of the 17 occupational groups examined in this report, engineering occupations overall had the highest employment growth rate over the period 2007-2012 (+6.5% on average annually); employment growth was the strongest for electrical/electronic engineers (+13.2% on average annually), followed by production, design and quality control engineers (+9.7% on average annually)
- Between 2007 and 2012, approximately 7,000 additional jobs were created; almost 60% of the job creation was for electrical/electronic engineers and production, design and quality control engineers
- Over the period 2011-2012, overall employment expanded by 22%, translating into an additional 4,600 jobs; the largest number of jobs was created at technician level
- Over three quarters of the workforce of each occupation was aged 25-54
- Almost 90% of the overall workforce of engineering professionals held third level qualifications; the share was just under 70% for technicians
- The share of females in the workforce of both engineering professionals (17%) and technicians (20%) was significantly below the national average share of 47%
- The unemployment rate for both engineers and technicians was well below the national average rate
- The majority of persons employed in engineering occupations worked full-time and were Irish-nationals
The data points to a shortage for a number of engineering occupations.
There is a significant shortage of precision engineering skills; these skills include
The supply of these skills from the education and training system has declined in recent years due partly to the discontinuation of third level courses in polymer technology and tool design. While the cessation of these courses coincided with the outsourcing of much of this type of engineering work to low cost countries, technological developments in high precision tool design and manufacture has shifted to a highly computerised process, and tools are increasingly multi-functional and complex, and subject to very low fault tolerance levels; this is particularly, although not exclusively, the case for tools for the medical devices industry, which has developed a strong presence in Ireland.
- tool design (technician level)
- polymer technology (technician level)
- process engineering skills (professional level).
The increasing sophistication of the tools means that the quality of the product has become a key consideration in the awarding of contracts, and Irish companies are to an increasing extent successfully tendering for such contracts. The current shortage of precision engineering skills is adversely impacting on Irish based companies’ capacity to continue to tender and deliver on such contracts.
At professional level, other engineering skills in demand include
At technician level, shortages of other engineering skills were mostly for
- quality control, validation & regulation engineers (high tech industry; food and beverages)
- mechanical engineers (machining industry agriculture equipment, ventilation systems (green economy), process automation (various sectors) and medical devices/pharmaceuticals (e.g. the research interface between materials and pharmaceutical products/medical devices))
- electrical and electronic engineers (e.g. telecommunications)
- production and process engineers
- chemical process engineers
- project management engineers
In addition, there is a demand for engineering expertise combined with the skills necessary for interaction with customers, suppliers, regulatory and funding bodies (e.g. people, communication and planning skills, cross discipline knowledge, etc.).
- electrical and electronic technicians with skills that combine mechanical, electrical and electronic technologies
- quality control
- process and design engineering to control and design automated processes
- food technologists.
Strong demand for engineering skills, at both professional and technician level, is illustrated in recent job announcements in medical devices and pharmaceuticals manufacturing (e.g. Vistacon, Sangart, IMSTec GmbH); food manufacturing (e.g. Glanbia) and energy, especially renewable energy, generation (Element Power; Natural Power, ESB International).