AS THE pace of job creation increases in the region, Limerick Institute of Technology President, Dr Maria Hinfelaar, has warned that LIT will struggle to meet the growing demand for skilled graduates without investment in facilities and infrastructure.
Speaking at the opening ceremony for this year’s conferring of 1,700 students at the institute, Dr Hinfelaar said LIT is now “incredibly tight for space and this year the problem is even more acute”.
She added that LIT needed “a step change in capital funding” because of heightened industry demand for skilled graduates brought about by the success of the strategy to bring jobs to Limerick.
Dr Hinfelaar also revealed that within one year of graduation, 90 per cent of LIT graduates are in employment, further study or volunteering, with only a small minority travelling abroad for employment.
“LIT now desperately needs investment in our facilities across all our campuses: the main campus in Limerick, our School of Art and Design in the city centre, our Thurles and Clonmel campuses.
“We have a wonderful Campus Masterplan called LIT 2030 – Our Places. We have been able to implement some of it to make necessary improvements, but we now need a step change in capital funding to address the need for additional space and state of the art equipment, and carry out the full LIT masterplan.
“It is very simple: we have a growing young population coming through the second level system, and we have a growing economy. The Mid West region is really developing and we have had 6,000 new jobs announced in the past couple of years in Limerick alone. These are all positions that require third level qualifications, and there will be many more jobs created indirectly by the expansion of all these companies.”
Dr Hinfelaar warned that the announcements make two key assumptions – “that there will be enough graduates coming out of higher education, and that the companies will be able to recruit local people”.
Dr Hinfelaar continued: “The harsh reality is that without investment in quality infrastructure and an increased footprint, LIT will struggle to meet the rising demand from students and the skills needs of industry and wider society. What will then happen is a shortage of skilled graduates to fill the jobs that all these companies are now announcing. That moment is not too far away.”
She added that her call for funding is about jobs for the region, not just for LIT alone.
“We can still fix it but we must act quickly. We have talented students, excellent programmes and wonderful staff, as well as exciting possibilities in the society we now live in but we have to face up to the reality that our facilities are not keeping pace,” the LIT President concluded.