Alan Costello: Engineering a bright future for everyone

THE last 10 months have been particularly busy, and rewarding, for Alan Costello. In April 2019, he was elected chairman of the Cork branch of Engineers Ireland.

The role has allowed him to interact with a range of professionals, from new graduates to experienced chartered engineers.

“Having the chance to share my journey, of becoming an engineer, with second- and third-level students has been a very rewarding aspect of the role, as well as promoting engineering as a creative and caring profession, which aims to deliver solutions that improve our society,” Mr Costello says.

One of his first events as chairman was ‘Engineering Your Future’, at Cork Institute of Technology. The week-long programme, supported by Engineers Ireland, gave transition-year students the chance to attend interactive talks and visit engineering organisations throughout Cork.

“Having begun in 2013 with just five programmes, the week has now extended to 18 and is really about giving hands-on experience and practical insight into the profession at third-level and as a career. As a CIT alumni myself, it was a privilege to address the students on the opening day,” Mr Costello says.

Working with Mott MacDonald Ireland since July 2006, Mr Costello is a senior chartered engineer with 13 years’ experience of civil infrastructure projects in Ireland and the UK.

Currently project manager for a range of projects across the transport and buildings sectors, his key areas of technical advisory and design expertise include drainage, road pavement, and traffic signage. He is also interested in sustainability and deep energy retrofits, having previously researched the subject at Cork Institute of Technology. “One of my professional highlights of 2019 was working on the N22 Baile Bhuirne to Macroom Road development. As a Kerry native, living in Cork, I have first-hand experience of delays along the current N22, particularly in Macroom,” Mr Costello says.

The new, 22km dual carriageway route will improve connectivity between Cork and Kerry, and allow the region to flourish. “It was exciting to be part of the Mott MacDonald Ireland team that administered the tender process alongside Cork County Council, and seeing the construction contracts being signed in November for this long-awaited project,” he says.

“Indeed, the year ahead looks promising, with a number of interesting prospects in the pipeline, which we hope to add to the current portfolio of projects in the transport, water, and built environment sectors.”

As skill shortages continue, Engineers Ireland welcomed a 10% increase in the number of students receiving a round-one offer to study a Level 8 engineering course in 2019, and particularly the growth in the number of students choosing courses that focus on sustainability and climate action.

According to findings from Engineers Ireland’s ‘Engineering 2019’ report, 94% of employers consider a shortage of experienced engineers to be a barrier to growth. In addition, the National Skills Bulletin, which informs government, employment, and education policy, also recognises shortages in engineering occupations.

“We are very involved in promoting the benefits of the profession, and increasing the numbers coming into the profession. Certainly, the job opportunities are there, and even looking at the Cork region alone, and the significant increase in population expected here over the coming years, the future is extremely bright for the new generation coming in,” Mr Costello says.

As chairman, Mr Costello knows the rewards of volunteering time to help the next generation of engineers and he has done so at events such as the Industry Showcase, hosted by STEM South-West in November.

“There is a huge appetite, at the moment, for information on STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths), and, more importantly, how to turn an interest in this area into a fulfilling career.

“The event was an incredible success, attracting over 1,500 visitors and 60 exhibiting STEM organisations. I’m looking forward to similar events in 2020, particularly during Engineers’ Week, and the ‘Meet the Engineers’ family fun day at the Old Cork Waterworks Experience, which is always a highlight,” Mr Costello says.


Coaching others to do better in business

THE Cork branch has a record of providing continuing professional development events to 3,500 Engineers Ireland members in the region, including evening lectures, site visits, and technical seminars. “One of the highlights of our programme was the ‘Construction Contract Principles For Engineers’ series, which was delivered over four evenings in October, by speakers from Ireland and the UK.”

Another highlight was the visit to the Jack Lynch tunnel to mark the 20th anniversary of its opening, in 1999, and to provide members with an opportunity to look at the operation and maintenance activities during a live closure.

The calendar of events in the Engineers Ireland Cork region continues this evening with its annual dinner.

“It is a great occasion socially and always well-attended. With members spread across local authority, consultancy, contracting, and academia, it is a good opportunity to catch up with one’s peers and keep abreast of what’s going on in the different areas of activity,” Mr Costello says.

Engineers Ireland is also hosting a conference in Dublin City University on April 23 entitled ‘Engineering Climate Action: Solutions to combat climate change in Ireland.’ The event will highlight how engineers are leading the fight: “As an engineering community, we need to be front and centre of the call for action on climate change and I am very much looking forward to seeing presentations on energy and sustainable practices, clean water and flood management, sustainability and innovation in manufacturing, and liveable communities,” he says.

Looking ahead, Alan Costello sees a bright outlook for Cork and for the engineering community. “Engineers will be key to realising the Government’s Project 2040 Strategy, which aims to make Cork the fastest-growing region in the country. Our members are at the forefront of projects being delivered across the city and county in the transport, water, pharma, energy, and ICT sectors,” Mr Costello says.

This progress will be underpinned by the Cork third-level institutions, UCC and CIT, continuing to provide quality graduates, who are vital to the success of the region. “In 2020, Engineers Ireland will continue its mission to enable the engineering community to progress their professional development, make an impact on society, and encourage and educate the future generations of engineers,” Mr Costello says.

“I’m looking forward to playing my part.”