An engineering skills shortage has been an issue in Ireland for some time, but the industry's body is now warning that it could impede the country's ability to meet its climate change targets. 

In its latest industry barometer published today, Engineers Ireland warns of a particular skills deficit around sustainable development.

This is something that will be key as organisations and bodies try to reduce their emissions in the coming years. 

"The technical skills - the traditional skills - they still apply, but it's really about the lens with which you use those," said Marguerite Sayers, president of Engineers Ireland. 

"The concern is in the education system where we are making sure that when people consider the technical skills that they do it in a context - that they consider energy efficiency, green design and the impact on the environment."

Ms Sayers said that educational institutions could make useful changes themselves - and some already were. 

However there may also be a role for a more top-down shift in approach in order to ensure sustainability is well integrated with the overall curriculum.

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"I think it's all of the above," she said. "One of the critical things that hasn't been considered in the past is one of the skillsets that's most important in the future - communications"," Ms Sayers said. 

"It's very important that communications is included in the curriculum, as well as critical reasoning as problems are getting more complex all of the time," she added. 

Trainees should also be better aware of the UN's sustainability goals in the future, she said. 

In a survey taken as part of Engineers Ireland's latest industry barometer, respondents once again cited skills shortages as their main concern for the growth of the sector. 

The body has been actively trying to encourage more students to consider a career in engineering in recent  years, and Ms Sayer said that this is beginning to bear some fruit. 

"The absolute numbers have gone up," she said. "Relative to the number of graduates this year we've an additional 500 that have entered into engineering courses.

"But it still leaves us with a deficit of about 1,000 per annum, so there's plenty of opportunities in engineering," she added. 

"We could do with a lot more engineers - and that's not just an Irish issue, it's an international one," she stated
This Friday sees the launch of Engineers Week 2020, where a series of events are held around the country to highlight the work of the industry to school children. 

This is a key part of Engineers Ireland's attempt to turn more on to the sector or, at the very least, to increase awareness about the work it does. 

"There's a huge effort going in to, not forcing or asking everybody to be an engineer, but to opening children's eyes to the idea that's a really important career, it's one that can have a huge impact on the world," Ms Sayers said.