'Invaluable' scholarship scheme gets €32m investment boost
A financial helping hand can make all the difference for young students looking to follow their dreams, writes Wayne O'Connor
When both of Dylan Carroll's parents lost their jobs within 15 minutes of each other during the recession, the young Limerick man could have been forgiven for reining in his future ambitions.
Instead, he quite literally aimed for the stars and now a future in space exploration is on the horizon.
Five years after embarking on a mechanical engineering degree at the University of Limerick, he is about to start a masters in space science at University College Dublin.
The ultimate goal is to secure a job with Nasa.
"I always had an interest in physics and technical graphics so I wanted to do mechanical engineering," he said. "That developed an interest in the space side of things and I wanted to develop a career in the space side of the industry.
"A majority of astronauts have a mechanical engineering background, so hopefully I'm on the right track."
However, the 23 year old said he would not have been able to secure this path without the support of the JP McManus All Ireland Scholarship Scheme in 2012.
The scholarship helped Dylan commit fully to his college work and secure roles with Ruag and Robo-Technology - two companies with a huge influence in the European space industry.
He added: "Everyone got hit with these challenges during the economic downturn, so for us to be granted this scholarship then went a long way to helping me through college. I was able to go out and get some great experience in the industry.
"I would not have been able to do that without the grant.
"As part of my third year we went on co-op (a work experience programme). Because I had the scholarship, as opposed to getting an internship in a firm in Limerick or elsewhere in Ireland, I was able to go out and find the specific one I wanted.
"I got two positions, one in Switzerland and one in Germany. I worked with the company that manufactures rockets for the European Space Agency and another involved in space robotics."
Gerda Ziemele, an architect from Drogheda, said she would have struggled to begin her career without the help of the scholarship.
She used the money to pay for accommodation in Dublin, allowing her to work on making models and finishing projects for college over the weekends.
She said: "I come from a single-parent family and my brother was going to college as well. My mum was worried about how she would send me to college because I wanted to do architecture in Dublin. The grant helped me move.
"The course was intense, so it helped me put the time that I needed in to my work."
Now she is working full time for Jacobs Engineering and pursuing an architectural diploma.
The scholarship scheme has been running since 2008. A further €32m has been invested in it so it can continue for another 10 years.
Dylan said he was delighted to hear the scholarship scheme is being extended. He said it will be a huge benefit to young people trying to develop a career.
He added: "It takes pressure off families and helps people follow their goals. Every year people get to do things that they might not have been able to do without the scholarship.
"Getting the experience in the space industry and connections is so valuable and it gives you a head start. You can't put a price on it."