One of the oft-touted arguments for the lack of our ability in manufacturing, engineering, technology and science is that there isn't enough emphasis on maths or science in school. Therefore, goes the argument, there is a dearth in applicants for engineering, maths and scientific pursuits at third level. And thus, we have few significant Irish tech, science, manufacturing or engineering firms.
This argument is half-correct, in my view. It is missing one key component: the lack of actual interest of Irish people in these pursuits. In particular, the lack of interest of Irish parents.
The fact is that few Irish parents actually value science or maths. When push comes to shove, they steer their kids into areas such as law, arts and 'business' (ie marketing). True, many hope their kids might show an interest in medicine. But that is as close as it gets to the sciences. And even here, with the exception of Elan, can you name a prominent Irish bio-science or medical device manufacturing firm?
It's largely the same in engineering. Sure, we give out gigs to Irish firms to flatten roads or build council estates. But what happens when we need a really key piece of infrastructure, like the Luas, Port Tunnel or Metro? We simply don't have the skills. Because so few are actually interested in pursuing a career in these disciplines. And even fewer of their parents are keen.
So the next time you want to have a moan about it being someone else's fault that we have such little indigenous manufacturing, technology and science firms, ask your parents why they didn't really steer you in that direction.