IMAGE: Pádraig Leahy, CEO of PLas Consulting Engineers in Little Island, Cork, and the PRO for the Cork region with Engineers Ireland.
The majority of engineering graduates in mechanical, civil, electrical and all across the full spectrum of manufacturing disciplines are offered jobs before completing their primary degrees.
Pádraig Leahy, PRO for the Cork region with Engineers Ireland and CEO of PLas Consulting Engineers in Little Island, Cork, says Ireland is entering an exciting growth phase and demand for qualified engineers across all disciplines is only going to get stronger.
“It really is a jobseeker’s world in engineering right now,” said Mr Leahy. “As a rule, engineering students are taken in for work experience and trainee roles while they’re completing their studies. Most of those are already in jobs before they leave college.
“There are quite a number of companies opening new plants, and engineers are central to those developments. There are huge opportunities for engineers on the tech side.
“Employers are using agencies to import talent. They’re also using their networks and the contacts of their existing employees to engage with experienced people.
“The sector has always engaged with third level, but more recently there are also cases of young people from secondary level getting a start as a junior draftsperson; they’ll have the opportunity to build a challenging and rewarding career from that position.”
Mr Leahy’s views are confirmed by a recent report by recruiters Morgan McKinley, showing a 21% average salary hike from €70,000 to €85,000 for electrical engineers with 8+ years’ experience during 2022 alone. DevOps engineers’ salaries are rising 20-30% for a €30k-100k range up to €40k-120k, depending on sector and experience.
The soaring demand for talent was one of the hot topics being talked about at the recent Engineers Ireland annual dinner. That demand for talent will also be driven by the central role that engineers will play in Ireland’s progress in renewable energy, new roads and transport plans, as well as evolving models of industrial, residential and commercial property development.
John Power, president of Engineers Ireland, told the engineers attending the body’s annual dinner that they would play a key role in designing and delivering these many changes in Ireland’s infrastructure.
Taking Covid as a standout moment for national and global reflection, Mr Power cited the example of the futuristic plans for Neom, the new city being developed in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia.
“Described as an urban blueprint for the next 150 years, Neom is a 170km-long proposed city in Tabuk, on the Red Sea,” said Mr Power. “Powered by artificial intelligence, the development promises a 20-minute work commute and will have ‘zero streets and zero carbon emissions’.
“Plans call for robots to perform functions such as security, logistics, home delivery, and caregiving and for the city to be powered solely with wind and solar power. The first phase of the project is scheduled for completion by 2025.”
Mr Power also cited Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, a new inter-city transport concept, which will, in theory, run trains in sealed tubes at speeds greater than 150mph.
In an expansive keynote address, Mr Power looked at a range of global developments which are coming onstream, with most plans accelerating since the pandemic.
Ireland’s focus on new models for renewable energy (notably offshore wind), housing, transport and industrial development promises a radically evolved future for national infrastructure.
Pádraig Leahy says young people in secondary schools looking to play a key role in this evolving picture should consider a career in engineering.
“Engineering is the application of science, and everything that we do as a society is influenced by it,” said Mr Leahy. “At a local level in Cork, if you look at traffic management and the way we get traffic to flow around the city, the design of the Dunkettle Interchange, the layout of traffic flow in and out of the city, there is a huge amount of engineering involved in delivering that.
“If you look at the potential for offshore and nearshore wind energy development, because of Ireland’s unique geography the country has a huge opportunity to become a global leader in this sector.
“Again, engineers will be key here in developing the infrastructure and technology, as well as linking these developments into overseas electricity grids.”
Also in Cork, Mr Leahy cites energy company EI-H2 developing build Ireland’s first green hydrogen production facility at Aghada, as well as the reuse of waste oils by Irving Oil in Whitegate in its renewable energy projects.
He cites exciting opportunities in life sciences in Cork, notably new product development at Pfizer, innovative medtech projects at Janssen and Stryker, among many others.
Mr Leahy says that, for young would-be innovators and entrepreneurs, a career in engineering offers one definite pathway into these kinds of future opportunities.
Mr Leahy’s own company, PLas Consulting Engineers, offers a range of consulting, design and project management services to the manufacturing industry.
PLas’s network of associates includes specialists in industrial design, machine safety and CE marking, control systems and software engineering. It adapts projects to the demands and constraints of manufacturing.
As such, PLas itself is a good example of the types of opportunities that Mr Leahy says are being created by the soaring developments across construction and transport through to manufacturing, energy and the development of new plants such as those in medtech and life sciences.
“One of our services is in reliability analysis for clients who are constructing a plant,” said Mr Leahy. “You might call it risk assessment, or certifying the safety aspects of a project.
“There are so many opportunities in engineering. It offers a really varied career. For me, a career in engineering is like one of those climbing nets you’d see on an obstacle course.
“It’s a very wide net that could take you into civil, electrical, mechanical, chemical and process engineering, transport, manufacturing or software engineering.
“For any intelligent young person wanting to make a difference in the world and looking at their career options, like those climbing nets, engineering is wide open and allows you to go in any direction you choose.”