Engineering a secure future for Ireland's economy

National Conference highlights need for entrepreneurial engineers and the increased participation of women in the engineering sector

Dublin 19th October 2004: The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Micheál Martin, T.D., is set to lead a national conference of top national and international speakers in a debate regarding what is needed to create 21st Century entrepreneurial engineers to grow our knowledge economy. The "Creating 21st Century Engineers" Conference, organised by the Dublin Institute of Technology and the IEI, takes place in DIT Bolton Street on Thursday 21st October and will be chaired by journalist and broadcaster David McWilliams.

Conference speaker Eoin O'Driscoll, Chair of Forfás who also chaired the recent Enterprise Strategy Report Group, highlighted the importance both of the conference and its focus:

"There is high status and high reward for 'business and technical professionals who sell'. We do not yet have this focus in Ireland.  We need to produce Sales Engineers and strong researchers to augment our strength in manufacturing and operations if we are to continue to compete successfully in the global knowledge economy. This conference is a very important step in raising the bar for ourselves in what we need from an engineering education."

Other major issues to be addressed will include how to foster increased interest in engineering, especially amongst women. According to conference organiser Tom Flanagan, Head of Innovation for the Faculty of Engineering, DIT, 'The general consensus is that the current participation rate of women in the engineering sector is extremely low and as such we are missing a whole pool of talent to grow Ireland's knowledge economy.'  Flanagan contends that it is vital that any framework for economic development should include strategies for increasing the percentage of women choosing engineering as a career.

On this issue, Dr Paula Trench, author and conference panelist, argues that gender imbalance within the sector is an issue that cannot be easily resolved due to the genetic differences between men and women. According to Dr Trench,'Despite  the socio-economic push for 'gender mainstreaming' the reality is that even in the 21st Century only 17% of people choosing engineering as a career in Ireland are women. The simple fact is that women and men think very differently and no amount of curriculum manipulation or marketing will ever result in a 50/50 split.  We are fundamentally dealing with human nature'.

Conference participants will include Minister Micheál Martin T.D.; Mr. Eoin O' Driscoll, Forfás; Sean Dorgan, CEO IDA; Prof. Brian Norton, President DIT, senior executives from Intel, SISK, HP, PharmaChemical Ireland, and the ESB along with educationalists from Ireland, the US, Denmark and Italy. Conference highlights will include presentations from major engineering businesses in Ireland on what skills they expect to need by 2010.  Educationalists will respond to this challenge and highlight what is new in engineering education and what is planned.

Click here to see the Conference Programme

Back to Top