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Engaging with the Workforce of the Future

02 November 2017 | 3 min read

According to a recent report by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), there are current Skills shortages in STEM sectors which are representing a real threat to the UK’s capacity for growth. There is an increasing emphasis on inspiring young people to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics and RPS Belfast has always understood the value of continued learning for these students.

As part of RPS Belfast’s school engagement and career development programme, a number of staff from our office showcased current engineering projects along with their immersive technologies at the recent Skills NI Event.

“We know that younger generations have no inhibitions when it comes to trying something new especially the latest technology” says Mark Maguire, RPS 3D Visual Designer “This makes virtual reality an ideal approach to engage young students with the engineering world and promote it as a viable and appealing vocation.”

Skills Northern Ireland, now in its second year saw almost 8,000 14-19-year-olds, Teachers and Parents visit the Titanic Exhibition Centre this October for an interactive look at careers ranging from Engineering, Medical, Manufacturing, Farming, to the Media and Military.

Supported by local companies and government such as Northern Ireland Electricity, Northern Ireland Water, Belfast City Council and the Department for Economy, this event bridged the skills gap for Belfast and Northern Ireland’s young people with careers, jobs, skills and advice on apprenticeship schemes. Whether their career paths were already planned out, or if they had no idea what their future holds, many young students discovered new opportunities that they may have never considered, including that of Engineering and Science based professions.

It’s estimated that around 87,000 job opportunities will become available in Northern Ireland across all sectors by 2026, with around 29,000 of these jobs needing to be filled by people leaving secondary education or apprenticeship schemes. (Ulster University’s “Skills in Demand” Report).

As with many industries in Northern Ireland, there is a major demand for both civil and structural engineering skills. Over the last number of years, RPS Belfast has worked closely with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) to offer several Work + places across our Maritime, Water Infrastructure, Waste and Geotechnical Engineering sectors.

One of RPS’ Work+ students, Chris O'Donoghue, enjoys the flexibility of the scheme allowing him to balance study with gaining the work experience that helps give an edge in the tough recruitment market. "The ICE Work+ scheme has given me the opportunity to gain specific knowledge within the engineering sector” says Chris “I'm able to gain experience while continuing to study for industry recognised qualifications at college. I have also been able to experience working within an office environment from an early stage of my career, which will be hugely beneficial as I aim to develop within the engineering industry."

Chris' mentor Jonathon McIlwaine explains "The Work+ scheme has allowed me to pass on my knowledge and experiences in order to help develop the engineers of the future, both professionally and personally. Not only has the scheme benefited the apprentice, but it has allowed me to further my own experiences in management and leadership within the industry."

Whether the students choose to go to university or embark on an apprenticeship scheme often followed by a university degree, helping them choose the right career is the first step to determining what further learning they need to get there.