The CEO of the Higher Education Authority, Tom Boland, launched a history of the unique course which ran at the Institute from 1985 to 2005, at a function in the Clarion Hotel, Sligo on October 20th. Also present to mark the course’s impact on industrial development in Ireland were course lecturers and graduates from around the world, whose stories are told in the book Lasting Impressions: The History of the National Diploma in Tool Design at IT Sligo.
Its editor, Michael Moffatt, who was coordinator of the course and is a lecturer in IT Sligo’s School of Engineering and Design, said the graduates were gathering at a time when Forfas the agency which advises the Government on skills needs, is conducting a study which seems destined to identify a gap in skills for manufacturing industry.
“When the Sligo Regional College as it then was, opened in 1970 it was immediately designated as the national training centre for tool making in Ireland,” he explained. The designation was fitting as Co Sligo is regarded as the birth place of tool making in Ireland, thanks to the entrepreneurship of the Gallagher family from Tubbercurry, including the late TD James Gallagher.
A roll call of the National Diploma in Tool Design graduates who attended the programme at IT Sligo over 20 years shows that many went to the top of the profession in Ireland, Europe and further afield.
“In the past the Institute responded to the needs of industry and we are publishing the book at a time when industry is reporting a new skills shortage in the precision engineering, design and polymer technology sector”, explained Michael Moffatt.
IT Sligo has been involved with Forfas in a forum established this year to assess the skills gaps inhibiting manufacturing industry. And in keeping with its tradition of meeting the needs of entrepreneurs, the Institute will now examine how it will respond to fill those gaps.
Attending the event were Mr Tom Boland (CEO of the Higher Education Authority), Mr Brian King, Managing Director of Smithstown Light Engineering (representing industry/employers), Mr Damien Dowd, Director of Galway Tool & Mould (representing graduates) and Professor Terri Scott, president of IT Sligo.
The book, which was compiled by Michael Moffatt with the help of one of the course lecturer Andrea Martin, details the history and operation of the course and contains graduate recollections, and a snapshot of how the former students have progressed. “Over 95 per cent of them responded to our survey and over 90 per cent of these are working directly in the engineering sector on all continents, but with the vast majority employed in Ireland,” said Mr Moffatt.
Among those graduates at the function were Des Forde, chairman of the reunion organising committee and a Director of Verus Ltd, Sligo, Brian Feehily, Engineering Manager at Tente Ltd Ballymote, Ronan Denning, Group Tooling Manager at C&F Galway and Martin Dolan, Development Manager at Modular Automation in Shannon.
Some of the graduates travelling from abroad include Cumbria-based James Doyle a design engineer with M-Sport which operates Ford’s World Rally programme, Andrew Leggett, an independent designer with Renault in Paris, Niall Robinson of P&G Gillette, based in Newburyport in the USA and Tony Curran Moulding Manager with FCI Automotive in Honduras.
Image Caption Top Right: L to R: Brian King (Founder/Director of Smithstown Light Engineering, Shannon), Terri Scott, Tom Boland (CEO of HEA)