Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Fergus O'Connell from PharmaChemical Ireland to give some advice for people considering this job:


Fergus O'Connell

Quality Officer

PharmaChemical Ireland


  Fergus O'Connell
A broad science background is very important. An ability to recognise small inconsistencies is equally important. For example do you recognise small discrepancies between different camera shots of the same scene in films and TV series?

An ability to question everything and think laterally is important. Also the ability to say 'no' (not everyone is comfortable doing this). Working in quality is not about being popular and definitely not about being a tyrant but one needs to be approachable, consistent and have good interpersonal skills.

Not all of your decisions are going to be popular but they need to be based on a sound rationale and you need to be able to support them. One also needs to be acutely aware of the fact that your opinion won't always be right.

One must always be open to being convinced of an alternative argument.

Administrative people are interested in work that offers security and a sense of being part of a larger process. They may be at their best operating under supervisors who give clear guidelines, and performing routine tasks in a methodical and reliable way.

They tend to enjoy clerical and most forms of office work, where they perform essential administrative duties. They often form the backbone of large and small organisations alike. They may enjoy being in charge of office filing systems, and using computers and other office equipment to keep things running smoothly. They usually like routine work hours and prefer comfortable indoor workplaces.
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Engineering Occupations

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

Shortage Indicators

The data points to a shortage for a number of engineering occupations.

There is a significant shortage of precision engineering skills; these skills include
  • tool design (technician level)
  • polymer technology (technician level)
  • process engineering skills (professional level).
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.

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
  • 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
At technician level, shortages of other engineering skills were mostly for
  • electrical and electronic technicians with skills that combine mechanical, electrical and electronic technologies
  • quality control
  • production
  • process and design engineering to control and design automated processes
  • food technologists.
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.).

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).

Labour Market Research 13

These links are to well established sources of information used to review, evaluate and predict changes in our labour market.

EGFSN - Report for HE Providers on Springboard 2014 / ICT Level 8 Conversion Programme 
February 2014 Report "Guidance for Higher Education providers on current and future skills needs of enterprise - Springboard 2014 / ICT Level 8 Conversion Programme"
Addressing Future Demand for High-level ICT Skills (EGFSN) 
Study forecasting the demand for high-level ICT skills to 2018, across all sectors of the economy in Ireland.
The Green Economy in Ireland (EGFSN) 
This study identifies the future skills needs of enterprise engaged within the green economy in Ireland and proposes a range of measures to ensure that their future skills base will drive business and employment growth. The study informs education and tra
National Skills Bulletin 2013 
Current National Skills Bulletin, providing a detailed overview of the Irish labour market. It is based on research conducted by the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit of FÁS (Now SOLAS)on behalf of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs.
Vacancy Overview 2012 
Released Feb. 2013 by the skills and Labour Market Unit of FAS (now SOLAS) on behalf of the EGFSN, the report outlines areas where job vacancies arose during 2012 and areas where demand continues to exist
CSO - Central Statistics Office 
This is the primary source of statistical information about our population. Several of the reports generated by the CSO provide the basis of most other reports on the Labour Market.
Forfás - Ireland's national policy and advisory board for enterprise, trade, science, technology and innovation 
Forfás provides the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation (formerly Enterprise, Trade and Employment - DETE) and other stakeholders with analysis, advice and support on issues related to enterprise, trade, science, technology and innovation.
Skills and Labour Market Reports 
A list of current Publications directly related to Labour Market conditions produced jointly by SOLAS (formerly FAS) and the EGFSN
EGFSN - Expert Group on Future Skills Needs 
The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) is a body appointed by the Irish Government to advise it on aspects of education and training related to the future skills requirements of the enterprise sector of the Irish economy.
HEA - Higher Education Authority 
This link points to some of the Statistical data created by the HEA relating to our Higher Education system.
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Current Labour Market related information  2

These sites provide news of current events that relate to our evolving labour market.

IBEC Quarterly Economic Trends 
Download publication in PDF format.
Irish Independant News - Labour Market 
Current news relating to the Irish Labour market.

Know of a link that you think should be included in this section? Send it to