Engineers Ireland, the professional body representing 25,000 engineers in Ireland published its call for action from the next Dáil on the 28th of January 2020. A new government will lead the country into the 2020s and the five main priorities for professional Engineers are as follows:
• Implement Project Ireland 2040 and achieve value-for money in infrastructure,
• Take urgent action to make Ireland carbon neutral,
• Build safe and sustainable homes and communities,
• Invest in higher education and lifelong learning,
• Future-proof our economy by preparing for the future of work.
(Project Ireland 2040 is a €116 billion plan, formulated by the current government in 2018, to address Ireland’s needs over the next 20 years. The population of the country is expected to grow by up to a million people in that time leading to a requirement for 550,000 new houses and 660,000 jobs. The capital spending plan aims to prepare for this growth by investing in education, housing, transport, infrastructure and healthcare.)
Engineers Ireland, through their role in the construction industry, will support the Government in progressing Project Ireland 2040.
• Commit to funding the National Development Plan and achieve the 4% GNI* spending target,
• Ensure capital investment decisions are tied to the National Planning Framework, drive decarbonisation and achieve value-for-money,
• Establish a National Infrastructure Commission to develop a long-term vision and strategy for Ireland’s infrastructure, identify priority projects and build public and cross-party support.
Ireland’s current dependence on fossil fuels and existing technologies will not allow it to meet its 2020 emissions targets.
• Implement the Climate Action Plan and progress the critical enablers for decarbonising energy, electric vehicle adoption and domestic deep energy retrofitting,
• Re-engineer our towns and cities for public transport, cyclists and pedestrians and invest in sustainable transport solutions that meet the needs of rural and urban communities,
• Meet our obligations under EU directives to efficiently supply adequate quantities of safe drinking water and ensure wastewater is adequately treated to protect the environment,
• Build public support for the engineering projects necessary for climate action.
Engineers have to take a lead role in increasing the pace of progress and assisting public figures in communicating the message to Irish communities.
The requirement to increase the supply of housing is at the top of the priorities for government. Engineers have a direct influence on the construction sector and must use it to increase capacity.
• Increase the supply of new homes by actively managing public land, investing in supporting infrastructure and adopting modern methods of construction,
• Implement a radical national retrofit strategy, providing clarity on financing and skills required,
• Reinforce the building regulations and standards to ensure high-quality homes and businesses,
• Establish the ‘Build-Digital’ centre to promote productivity, innovation and digitalisation.
Engineers can also help to increase the volume and quality of the country’s housing stock through the introduction of new technologies and the continuing development of the building standards.
Education and Training
Increased resources are necessary in education to ensure the quality of graduates leaving the education system in Ireland and also to ensure that the reputation of Irish graduates is not undermined.
• Increase higher education funding per student and establish a sustainable funding model including core and programmatic funding, facilities investment and industry collaboration,
• Achieve the targets of the STEM Education Policy Statement such as a 40% increase in the number of girls taking Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths Leaving Certificate subjects,
• Promote and invest in a culture of lifelong learning in all areas of the economy,
• Restore tax treatment for professional subscriptions to 1997 Act provisions to promote CPD and professional and educational standard.
The shortage of graduates across the Engineering disciplines needs to be addressed as engineers are central to informing and implementing the government’s development plans.
Enterprise and Innovation
Innovations in technology and work practices are changing societies worldwide. As a small nation, Ireland needs to stay ahead in these areas and continue to increase the quality of its exports and its technical jobs.
• Increase national funding for research and innovation to bring us closer to our competitors and establish Ireland as an innovation leader,
• Establish a national Industry 4.0 portal to provide information targeting SMEs,
• Increase collaboration between research organisations, State agencies and industry,
• Develop education and reskilling programmes on digital transformation.
Engineers Ireland has stated that it intends to support the government in ensuring that Engineers can take the lead in the continued implementation of improved technology and ways of working.