Limerick Institute of Technology President Vincent Cunnane talks about passion, pride and the secret sauce of education to Andrew Carey.
STANDING in front of 1,700 new entrants to the Limerick Institute of Technology is what Vincent Cunnane describes as the best job in the world.
After five sessions addressing the new intake of students in the Millennium Theatre on the Moylish Campus, there might be a slight crackle in the Donegal man’s voice, but there is no sign of any waiver in the passion he has for Limerick.
The last of the CAO offers have been dispatched and students are now coming to terms with the courses they will be studying for the next three to four years.
Addressing this year’s new entrants, Professor Cunnane asked those who set foot on the campus for the first time to give him just two years and the rest will follow.
“I feel I have the best job in the world. I have just welcomed these new students on to the campus and we have had five induction sessions for students across a broad variety of sectors.
“I am asking them to give me two years of their lives because, as we are in the IOT (Internet of Things) sector, in two years we can give them a level six qualification and I tell them that will change their lives.
“Most of the students are enrolled for level eight programmes but we can offer them an alternative if it gets too much for them, there’s an embedded level six programme as well.
“That’s the way to go, continuous professional development, access for those who will benefit from it, new apprenticeship opportunities for those who have different skills.”
Championing Limerick and working to enhance the positivity of the city and the region is something that comes as second nature to the LIT President.
Having seen times go from boom to bust, the Donegal native who has made Limerick his home, says that “the future is exceptionally bright for the city and the region”
“I suppose as a former chief executive of Shannon Development, it is lovely for me to see the different parts of the region pulling together again.
“The local authorities in Tipperary, Limerick, and Clare coming together and recognising that they have something more than an individual county standing on its own is a significant factor. It means that together we can present this region as the most dynamic, fastest-growing part of the country where we can cater for you, your career, your spouse, your children and your future.”
Often credited with being one of the main reasons companies, both foreign and domestic, chose Limerick, the development of a third level education sector that ensures the emergence of a continuous supply of talented graduates remains a key objective for LIT.
“What makes Limerick attractive now is that if you hitch your wagon to Limerick, you will never regret that decision.
“You hitch your wagon and we will deliver for you because we know where we are going.
“We know that the city centre needs improvement and we know what needs to happen and we have a plan for that, so we know what we are about.
“We have reorientated ourselves towards the river and addressed the social problems,” he added.
The LIT President said that the way the institution has embedded itself into Limerick society has been far more fundamental than it is in other cities.
“We are part of a society and we are bringing 25,000 students into a city that has 100,000 people.
“Along with our partners in the Shannon Consortium, we want to provide opportunities for all who can benefit from third level education and we want to open up those opportunities for them.”
To support this, LIT looks at itself as an access institution. In that way, we get an equitable society and that way we make sure that everyone gets an opportunity to advance.
“We are having an impact not only on the talent supply but in research and development, innovation and enterprise and all of that is happening here”.
He believes that LIT is also having an impact on the social structure of Limerick, as well as its cultural structure.
“We are changing the facade of Limerick and it is all positive. LIT, it could be said, is one of the partners at the heart of that change. Think of what LSAD (Limerick School of Art and Design) is bringing to the arts and culture of this city.
“I could go on and on because there is a positive story at every twist and turn.
“The ability of Limerick people to have a conversation, the ability for others to listen and the ability for action to be taken make up the secret sauce.
“This is apparent in the eight new honours degree programmes and a number of new apprenticeships where overall new entrant student numbers have risen in LIT in what is a falling market.
“Student numbers in the country are down but we have seen a year-on-year increase as we continue to develop new options. These have been guided by industry groups because we place a lot of effort and credit to our industry, business and cultural interaction as they are identifying gaps for us in the market.
“That is one of the key things we do in stakeholder engagement and through that, we learn what we could be doing better as well as other courses that we could be developing.”