Ways of engineering a path to first-class job prospects

 

THE INDICATIONS are that there will be a shortage of mechanical engineers in Europe in the future, says Frank Burke, director general of the Institution of Engineering, about 13,000 Irish engineers. This is obviously good news for prospective students of mechanical engineering.

The current job scene is also good, according to Padraic Cuffe, administrative officer with Sligo RTC which offers a number of courses in the mechanical engineering area. In the RTC system, the starting point for school leavers is usually the two-year certificate in mechanical engineering.

Sligo RTC offers a one year follow-on diploma in industrial automation or a two year follow-on diploma in tool design. This option is open to students who have obtained sufficient grades in the certificate exam.

The tool design course is the only one of its kind in Europe, according to Cuffe, and has virtually 100 per cent employment. The course consists of one year in work placement and one year's academic training in Sligo RTC, which is home to the national tool-making centre. As well as certificate graduates, time served tool-making apprentices may also apply to this course. In a good illustration of the certificate, diploma, degree route, Sligo RTC offers a follow-on degree in quality assurance. Job prospects for these graduates are also excellent, says Cuffe.

All 11 regional technical colleges offer certificate courses in mechanical engineering and most offer follow-on programmes. It is, of course, possible to transfer from a certificate in one college to a diploma in another college. Points for certificate courses are considerably lower than the points required for ab initio degrees. Indeed, some of the certificate courses this year took all qualified applicants.

All of the ab initio degrees have specific maths requirements, so students hoping to go straight into degrees must have attained a C in higher level maths and UCD requires a higher level B.

Padraic Gallagher, careers officer with UL, notes the increasing demand for mechanical engineers with a continental language. To service this market, UL is offering a new degree which combines German with mechanical engineering. Language is important for mobility, he says, and there are also a number of continental companies in Ireland which are looking for engineering graduates with a good command of their language.

Eileen Fitzpatrick, careers officer with DIT, explains that the DIT mechanical engineering degree has two main specialisms - mechanical; and manufacturing and production. In 1995, 88 per cent of DIT's mechanical engineering graduates gained employment directly, with 12 per cent of those working overseas. Some 4 per cent went on to further study in Ireland; 4 per cent went into other vocational and professional training and the remainder were still seeking work at the time of the survey.

Of the manufacturing and production engineering stream, 54.6 per cent were employed, with a higher percentage, 31.8 per cent, going on to further study and 4.5 per cent opting for further vocational or professional training. DIT also offers a diploma in mechanical engineering and almost half of these went on to further study (presumably to degree level) with about 40 per cent employed directly. Most of the certificate graduates proceeded to diploma level.

While school leavers will base their choice of course on reasons such as points requirements or geographical location of the college, Frank Burke of the IEI strongly recommends that they ensure that the course they choose is accredited by the institution. If they are looking to courses in Britain, he says they should ensure the course is accredited by the UK engineering council.