The Site Director at one of Ireland’s leading med-tech research facilities, BD’s Research Centre Ireland (RCI) at the National Technology Park in Limerick, has said that the growing demand for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) based skills in Ireland can be met only through enhancing the public-private approach.
Presenting awards to 10 University of Limerick (UL) students under its leading scholarship and bursary programme, BD’s Site Director, Padraig Fitzgerald said that business/industry and education partnerships are critical to unlocking Ireland’s STEM potential.
Mr Fitzgerald made his comments as BD RCI presented awards to 10 University of Limerick (UL) students under its leading scholarship and bursary programme. The programme is funded by the company through the UL Foundation to support students from the University’s Access programme, which works to encourage the participation of students from groups who have been under-represented in the University sector.
The BD RCI awards saw four female students studying science and engineering receive the BD Bursaries for Women in STEM. Six students also received the BD Scholarships in Science and Engineering, based on their outstanding academic achievement.
A key element of the BD RCI programme is that recipients of the bursaries and scholarships will also be assigned a professional mentor from BD.
And speaking at the event, 2022 mentor Jennifer Hogan, from Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare said that the support will be invaluable to the students. “I got this type of mentoring myself when I was in the early stages of my career, and I found it really useful. I’m really looking forward to giving back to the programme now as a mentor. It will be great to interact with the UL students and offer them some guidance on their careers.”
The recipients also got an insight into a cutting-edge STEM environment at the awards event with a tour of BD RCI’s state-of-the-art facility, adjacent to the UL campus in Castletroy.
Commenting at the event, Mr Fitzgerald said: “From government to industry and education, there is consensus that we have a challenge in terms of STEM skills. A European Commission suggests that 24 out of every 1,000 female graduates have an ICT related subject and only six go on to work in the digital economy. Growing the number of women engaged with technology is hugely important for the sector as it will bring vital new perspectives as well.
“It is a challenge I am very confident we can meet but it will take collaboration from industry, education partners across third and second level and, indeed, government support. It’s fair to say that we are already seeing inroads and our own awards programme today is evidence of that; industry and third level partners coming together to put supports in place to make sure these students can reach their potential. But we have more to do. The task is for industry, education and government to continue working on this, not least in the area of ensuring access for all to third level.”
He added: “Ultimately, Limerick and Ireland have a huge opportunity here. We are clearly a favourable location for inward and indigenous investment, we’ve got an excellent reputation in the space, have got superb collaboration going on between third level and industry, as this programme and other initiatives at UL reflects.”
Those attending the ceremony were given a virtual tour of BD RCI’s state-of-the-art facility, adjacent to the UL campus in Castletroy, with the awards recipients also getting to meet their mentors for the first time.
Sarah Hartnett, Director of Development at the UL Foundation said: “It is fantastic to see pioneering companies like BD RCI demonstrate such leadership with their support for the programme to deepen STEM skills and we are delighted to have the opportunity at UL to partner with them. We’re particularly pleased that this engagement focuses specifically on not just women in STEM but under-represented student groups at third level.
“A key element of the programme from our perspective also is that BD also provides mentorship. Financial support to help students through their education is one thing but the professional mentoring brings it to a new level. Our students, as a result, have the opportunity to get really deep industry understanding and support along the way and they are really benefitting from this.”
Also attending the event was Deirdre O’Connor, Access Officer at the University, who said: “It really makes a difference to our students when a company like BD RCI demonstrates belief in their abilities. It’s a very important vote of confidence in them. We’re really proud when we see the very positive student outcomes from these programmes and illustrates the importance of making third level access more equal.”