Engineering in Ireland, north and south

Engineering in Ireland, North and South

Engineering is an important source of employment for graduates both north and south of the border.

Engineering in Northern Ireland

During recent years, Northern Ireland has experienced major successes in the software, technology, telecoms and finance sectors, all of which provide employment for engineers, both directly and indirectly. This is welcome news for the 2,000 plus students who graduate each year in Northern Ireland with engineering or IT degrees.

The manufacturing sector in Northern Ireland includes some major global organisations such as Bombardier in the aerospace sector, Caterpillar in construction and mining manufacturing and DuPont in chemical manufacturing. Key innovations such as the vertical take-off jet, the portable defibrillator and the pneumatic tyre have originated in Northern Ireland. Companies in this sector are major employers, providing jobs for about 13 per cent of the workforce.

The telecoms and electronics sector in Northern Ireland is world renowned, and it is considered a ‘centre of excellence’ in the sector. Key players in the industry include Daewoo, Openwave, BT, Fujitsu and Nortel Networks. Telecoms software and wireless application development are two key areas of expertise.

There are over 700 companies in the ICT and software sectors in Northern Ireland. These include over a 100 international operations such as SAP, HP, Oracle and Microsoft.

Northern Ireland is at the forefront of research and development (R&D), with a number of centres/institutes carrying out breakthrough research in the areas of electronics, computing/software, engineering, material and telecoms. There is ongoing collaboration between aerospace companies and local universities, leading to the development of cutting-edge technologies.

Engineering in the Republic of Ireland

Engineers are constantly in demand across a range of different sectors, their technical skills essential to the functioning of many sectors of industry. Our own research here at gradireland shows that engineering accounts for almost 10% of graduate jobs, and a graduate starting in the industry can expect a salary in the region of €27,289. So there are opportunities out there for graduates to make a solid start to an exciting, and lucrative, engineering career. For employers however, engineering is one of the skills areas that they find lacking amongst graduates. In
gradireland’s Graduate Salary & Graduate Recruitment Trends Survey 2016, over 20% of graduate employers said engineering was an area with a skills shortage. There is an enormous amount of opportunity out there for engineering graduates, but you’ll need to develop the skillsets that
employers need.

Gain experience

Depending on what type of engineering degree you have, whether it be electrical, mechanical, electronic, civil or a general engineering degree, there will be different roles available for you once you graduate. Your degree type will give you an idea of what area you want to work in, but you’ll also have to think about the skills and qualities you possess.
Activities like work placement, internships and your progression through your course will help with this, as it will give you a sense of where your skills fit in in the working world. It’s important to explore all your options and to research the different areas that are available to you. Once you have done that, you’ll be better able to tailor skills and experience to the area of interest. Talk to your careers service and network with others already working in the engineering sector; they will be able to help.

Work experience

There are approximately 23,000 people employed in engineering occupations in Ireland, which constitutes around 1.2% of national employment. Over the past five years, there has been particularly consistent and strong growth in opportunities for production, quality control and design engineers, with a 36% increase in advertising positions since 2015. So, the work is there for engineer graduates; however, to put yourself ahead of competition, experience is key. By having experience by completing an internship, you'll not only have a more clear sense of what area you want to get involved in, but you’ll also demonstrate you are passionate about the profession. In 2017, 65% of Irish engineering graduates had work experience directly related to their course during their time in university.

You have options

82% of engineering graduates go on to work in employment that is related to their course, but you shouldn’t worry if you are coming to the end of your degree and you feel a career in engineering is not for you. Many other sectors will be looking for graduates with a background in logical processes, managing a project and understanding complex concepts. Some areas to look into include fire and safety, patents, technical sales and marketing, technical writing and consultancy.
Not everyone ends up in a career directly related to their degree; there is no fixed path that you need to rigidly follow. No matter if you end up being an engineer or doing something completely different, your degree will stand to you. The skills you learn through your course and working life will be valuable and transferable to a wide range of roles.

Moving up

23% of engineering undergraduates in 2015 went on to further study the following
year. Gaining postgraduate and professional qualifications after your undergrad degree is often something employers will expect and require from their graduate employees in this sector. Having a
postgraduate degree can mean more pay, increased responsibility and better promotion and career development opportunities. 70% of graduates from undergraduate engineering courses in 2015 were employed, whereas 81% of those with an engineering postgraduate qualification were in employment, according to figures from the Higher Education Authority.