Friday 24 November 2017

Thousands of jobs 'lost' as courses snubbed

Katherine Donnelly and John Walshe

THOUSANDS of highly paid jobs are going abegging because colleges can't get enough students for courses that are key to the country's economic future.

Major college courses -- offering a route to high-paid technology jobs -- are struggling to fill places, despite a record number of CAO offers today.

There is deepening concern about the poor uptake in science, engineering and technology -- all of which are regarded as a cornerstone for future growth.

Despite the economic downturn, there are 10,000 vacancies in the computing and the IT sector, and 5,000 jobs available in engineering.

A graphic example of the crisis was revealed last night showing that numbers graduating in computer applications from Dublin City University (DCU) dropped from 224 in 2005 to 70 this year.

Michael Ryan, who is Professor of Computing at DCU, said at a recent meeting organised by the college that there were twice as many potential employers as computing graduates.

He said skills shortages in computing were also underlined by the fact that 35pc of new staff in software companies in the Dublin area come from outside Ireland.

He said hard questions have to be asked about maths teaching in schools.

Today, 46,577 CAO applicants received an offer in the post -- up 3pc on last year, reflecting the bumper 68,112 applications for college entry.

Taking into account mature students and those who applied with a Further Education (FE) qualification, it brings to 52,631 the number receiving an offer.

There will be huge disappointment for almost 15,500 applicants who will get no offer at all today.

These will include many of the 5,000 who failed maths, ruling them out of most third-level courses.

Negative

A pass in maths at ordinary level is required for entry to most computing courses and the high 12.3pc fail rate is likely to have had a negative impact on numbers eligible for an offer.

The trend appears to be having a knock-on effect in the world of work as employers say that lucrative job positions are going unfilled.

But even starting salaries for engineers averaging €31,000 do not seem enough to tempt high-flying students.

Other pointers from CAO Round One include:

l Law has lost its some of its lustre, with a drop in applications contributing to a fall in points on many courses.

l Architecture and other construction or property-related courses have dropped points.

l The annual scramble for medicine keeps it top of the points table, and out of reach of most applicants.

l But other healthcare courses, such as physiotherapy and nursing, are down.

l Primary teaching is buoyant with an across-the-board rise in points.

l Points rose on about 250 Level 8, honours degree courses; dropped on 310; and remained the same on 90 others.

l At the Level 7/6 ordinary degree/higher certificate, more than half the courses dropped points, but more than one-third went up.

l Half of those receiving an offer at Level 8 got their first preference and 79pc their first, second or third choice, compared with 81pc and 96pc respectively at Level 7/6

In maths at higher level, a drop in top grades accompanied by a rise in fail rates reduced the pool eligible for a swathe of engineering courses, where a C3 at higher level is usually the minimum grade required.

Because of the failure to fill all their places, some third-level colleges are holding special maths entrance exams offering a second chance to students to gain entry to engineering and some technology programmes.

Poor

The disappointing results in maths, and in some cases the sciences, compounds a relatively poor uptake in these subjects in schools, particularly at higher level.

Engineers Ireland director general John Power said Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe must prioritise investment in key subjects such as maths and the sciences at primary and secondary level while also addressing third level.

He said engineering was the cornerstone of the Celtic Tiger and must be given priority to reinvigorate our economy again.

"It takes engineering and engineers to create the pitch for other professions, such as lawyers and accountants, to play on."

Overall, today's CAO statistics indicate an upward drift in qualification levels, as Level 8 courses continue to account for a bigger share of the offers. Proportionately more courses are being offered at Level 8, including some that have been upgraded from Level 7/6.

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