Stem courses key to Ireland making gains post-Brexit

Universities’ initiative aims to create highly skilled workforce for high-tech sector

Photograph: iStockphoto/Getty Images

Photograph: iStockphoto/Getty Images

 

The British general election result has done little to assuage Irish fears for industry here post-Brexit but with a booming Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) sector, Ireland is well placed to make gains.

According to leading economist Prof Alan Ahearne of the Whitaker Institute, NUI Galway, the Brexit “divorce” negotiations will likely last for at least two years, with trade deals possibly taking considerably longer to complete.

In the meantime, it’s possible that World Trade Organisation rules will apply to imports from the United Kingdom and exports out of Ireland.

While tariffs of up to 80 per cent would apply on certain goods, some of the lowest World Trade Organisation’s duties apply in the ITC and medtech sector, opening up new opportunities for expansion.

One way to boost and support this development is by ensuring a highly trained and innovative workforce, with the skills necessary to forge ahead in high-tech.

Prof Ahearne says adult learners or those who want to give themselves an edge in employability and career development should consider upskilling through courses with a strategic focus on science and technology.

Flexible

A collaborative initiative has brought three Irish universities together for this very purpose. The National University of Ireland Galway, University of Limerick and University College Cork, under the auspices of the Atlantic University Alliance (AUA), jointly develop and deliver courses with a unique technology focus.

A new programme in science and technology studies was developed by academic staff in consultation with industry, to address current and future requirements of the high-tech sector.

The course was designed to be flexible, cognisant of the many demands placed on adult learners and those with jobs and family commitments.

All of the courses were developed on a modular basis to provide manageable, bite-sized chunks of learning.

The level 7 diploma in science and technology Studies (DST) is open to applicants over 21 years of age who have a Leaving Certificate with maths.

The flexibility of the modular course means that it can be completed in between two and four years. Entry into the degree cycle BSc in science & technology requires either the DST or a similar level 7 diploma.

Specialist streams

The degree cycle offers specialist streams in automation and control; medical device science; lean and quality systems; and form and function of the human body. These four streams are also available as standalone level 8 specialist diplomas, which can be completed in one year.

The level 9 MSc in technology management aims to ensure students’ excellence in business through the development of their knowledge of the creation, development and optimal use of technology. The course aims to develop leaders who will operate effectively where technology, people and process intersect.

Nuala McGuinn, director of the Centre for Adult Learning and Professional Development at NUI Galway, says while acknowledging that employability and market competitiveness is key for all employers, from a wider societal view, the positive effects of lifelong learning in terms of personal development and higher levels of job satisfaction and greater staff retention make economic sense.