Thursday 29 June 2017

Students opt for engineering and science in hope of finding work

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

STUDENTS are choosing to study engineering, computing and science in ever- growing numbers as the fashionable careers of the boom years such as architecture and law lose some of their gloss, new figures obtained by the Irish Independent reveal.

Even in a bumper year for college applications, three disciplines regarded as cornerstones for the so-called smart economy are outpacing other areas.

Although these disciplines are recovering from a long spell in the doldrums and a very low base, it is a major step on the road to having enough skilled graduates for key industries such as green energy and mobile phone apps.

The trend has emerged in an analysis of this year's applications carried out by the Higher Education Authority (HEA). It follows widespread concerns expressed by major employers who highlighted a severe shortage of skilled graduates in these key areas of growth.

This year, the CAO, the centralised college admissions service, is dealing with an all-time high of 77,126 applications, compared with 65,883 in 2007 before the downturn, when plenty of jobs were on offer.

But even within the record figures, the picture for engineering, computing and science is even more dramatic, with all of them capturing a greater share of first preferences than they did in 2007.

School-leavers, as well as the rising number of mature students now seeking to go back to college to acquire new skills, are obviously heeding the advice of the Government and industry experts about where the jobs will be in the new economy.

Science has moved up from seventh to fifth place in the ladder of the most popular disciplines for level 8, honours degree programmes.

Meanwhile, the construction category has been knocked back from fifth to 12th place.

Demand

Other disciplines that have seen a fall-off in the proportion of first preference applications since 2007 include nursing and education, although demand for these courses remains high.

The drop in interest in nursing accelerated in recent months, with its share of first preferences dipping slightly from 8.9pc to 8.4pc since the main CAO deadline in February.

Medicine, too, saw a drop from 3,755 first preferences in February to 3,444 in July, with its overall share down from 6pc to 5pc. The fall can be attributed to the release of the results of the HPAT aptitude test at the end of June which gave students an indication of their chances of landing a place.

Science is currently the top choice for 7pc of applicants for level 8 courses, compared with 5.4pc in 2007.

Computing attracted a lowly 1,835 first preferences in 2007, 3.3pc of the total, but this year it has risen to 3,163, or 4.7pc. The number of students making engineering their first choice has risen from 3.8pc to 4.3pc.

A HEA spokesman welcomed the growth in interest in science, technology and computing: "These are the areas where we need more people. Career opportunities are and will be available in the future," he said.

Meanwhile, ServiceSource, a global technology firm is to create 70 jobs in an expansion of its Dublin headquarters. The company is now recruiting for positions in HR, training, infor- mation technology and operations at its Sandyford facility.

The latest investment was supported by the Government through IDA Ireland.

Irish Independent

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