National Conference Creating 21st Century Engineers 'A Resounding Success'

Dublin, Thursday 21st October, 2004

The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Micheál Martin, T.D., opened the national conference 'Growing Ireland's Knowledge Economy - Creating 21st Century Engineers' in DIT Bolton Street on Thursday 21st October. The Conference brought together top national and international speakers in a debate regarding what is needed to create 21st Century entrepreneurial engineers to grow our knowledge economy. All those who attended deemed the conference, organised by the DIT and the Institute of Engineers of Ireland, a resounding success.

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Micheál Martin, T.D.

The conference attracted over a 150 attendees from a broad range of sectors including government, industry and academia.  Conference participants included Minister Micheál Martin T.D.; Mr. Eoin O' Driscoll, Forfás; Sean Dorgan, CEO IDA; Professor Brian Norton, President DIT; senior executives from Intel, SISK, HP, PharmaChemical Ireland, and the ESB along with educationalists from Ireland, the US, Denmark and Italy.

Opening the conference Minister Martin T.D. highlighted the need for Continuous Professional Development (CPD); citing that 80% of the workforce in 2020 is already at work now and they will need to pursue CPD to keep ahead of changing markets and technologies.

Sean Dorgan, CEO IDA and Chairman of DIT's Governing Body highlighted the strong performance of Irish divisions of such multinational companies as Intel and Dell, the cost effectiveness of much of the Irish engineering industry, and the outstanding performance of the pharmchem industry here.

Leading industry figures such as Martin Murphy, MD Hewlett Packard and John Mc Sweeney, MD ESB Telecom highlighted the need for engineers who are creative and entrepreneurial, and who understand business and welcome diversity. They also commented on the importance of industry-academia interaction and complemented DIT in this regard.

Professor Jane Grimson, Vice Provost TCD spoke of the economic imperative of attracting more women into engineering and she recommended that diversity ratios be measured and reported regularly as part of the Competitive Index.  On this issue, Dr Paula Trench, author and conference panellist, proposed that gender imbalance within the engineering sector is an issue that cannot be easily resolved due to the genetic differences between men and women.

Among the many topics debated during the conference was the issue of attracting students and staff to the engineering sector. Dr Mike Murphy, Dean of Engineering, DIT gave a presentation on best practice examples currently been implemented by DIT to address this challenge, while Professor Depew from University of Purdue and Professor Carlson from University of Colorado spoke about initiatives adopted for attracting and retaining staff in the United States.

Conference speaker Eoin O'Driscoll, Chair Forfás and lead on the recent Enterprise Strategy Report, highlighted the importance both of the conference and its focus:

"There is high status and high reward for 'business and technical professionals that sell'. We do not yet have this focus in Ireland.  We need to produce Sales Engineers and strong researchers to augment our strength in manufacturing and operations if we are to continue to compete successfully in the global knowledge economy. This conference was a very important step in raising the bar for ourselves in what we need from an engineering education."

Professor Brian Norton, President DIT closed the event thanking the presenters and the audience for the thought leadership that had been expressed.  He also thanked conference leader Tom Flanagan, Head of Innovation, Faculty of Engineering DIT for organising such an excellent forum for debate and discussion.

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