“The Irish Defence Forces continue to recruit in a number of important and attractive areas. Among these is the specialist Army engineer graduate programme. The programme is aimed at recruiting engineering graduates into the Army cadet school and from there into the Army corps of engineers.

The idea of a specific engineering cadetship for the Army has its origins in the Army equitation school, which has long had a number of cadetships ringfenced for it, according to Cmdt Barry Ryan. “We thought it would work for us as it would allow us to bring in people with engineering degrees who would come straight into the corps of engineers when they finish their cadetships.”

The programme lasts about five years, culminating with officers leading engineer troops on an overseas deployment. After that they can continue serving in the Defence Forces or leave and capitalise on their leadership and technical skills in a civilian career.

The first phase of the programme is the cadetship. This involves 15 months of world-class training in the cadet school, which Ryan describes as “the best leadership school in the country”. On successful completion of the cadetship, graduates are commissioned as officers and will commence a further 15 months on the ‘young officers’ course’ in the school of military engineering where they earn a level-nine master’s qualification. This will qualify them in a wide range of military combat engineering skills such as field fortifications, obstacles, explosive demolitions, bridging, mine warfare, firefighting, specialist search and clearance, boating, water purification, power provision and more.

They also undergo a three-month maintenance engineering course where they study contract and tender preparation, project management, health and safety, range design, energy management, fire engineering and procurement. They then move to their assigned units for a year, further developing their skills and getting practical experience of leading engineer troops.

Finally, all this training and experience culminates in deployment overseas in command of engineer troops as part of an Irish unit serving under a United Nations mandate. “Overseas service promises to be the highlight of your time in the Defence Forces and the ultimate test for a young engineer officer,” says Ryan.

The Naval Service also has a number of opportunities available within its specialist technical streams. “While we run our own internal trainee technician training each year, from time to time we seek suitable qualified and experienced personnel to join the Naval Service to supplement our trainee schemes,” explains Lieut Cmdr Seán Linehan. “We refer to this as direct-entry induction. Most of these individuals will join as leading hands – the rank one above able rate, equivalent to a corporal in the Army. They will receive basic military and naval training and Naval Service specific training in equipment and procedures, before becoming operational after approximately one year. The exception is direct-entry cooks, who come in at able rate.”

Among the opportunities are direct-entry electrical artificers, who are responsible for the operation and maintenance of the ship’s power generation and distribution systems, and certain specialist equipment such as the ship’s gyrocompass. Direct-entry radio and radar technicians are responsible for the maintenance of the ship’s communications systems, the radars, electronic navigation systems and other information-system integration.

Hull artificers are responsible for the watertight integrity of the ship’s hull, the maintenance of the hulls of Naval Service boats, and any carpentry and joinery requirements aboard ship or ashore.

In addition to these opportunities for enlisted personnel, there are three direct-entry officer competitions. Marine engineers and operation branch officers (officer of the watch) require professional maritime qualification and are therefore drawn from a very specialised pool. Electrical officers require more generally available qualifications. All three currently join at the officer rank of sub-lieutenant.

Marine engineer officers are responsible aboard ship for the safe, effective and efficient operation and maintenance of the ship’s plant and machinery, and for supervision of the ship’s technical staff. Ashore, they are responsible for assisting ships not on patrol in higher-level maintenance, for refits and larger-scale engineering projects. Operations branch officers are responsible for the safe navigation and operation of the ship, the ship’s boats and weapons systems. It is only by promotion and qualification within this stream that an individual may be appointed captain of a ship. The primary role of electrical officers ashore is in the management and supervision of electrical and electronic maintenance of ships while not on patrol.