South east suffers more than most in education and enterprise
It has become glaringly obvious in these tough times, that there are some places around the country that would appear to be suffering more than others during the downturn and unfortunately, Kilkenny and the south east seems to be one of those places.
This week Fine Gael has said that they intend to fastrack the establishment of a university for the south east in a bid to create a more positive economic and educational environment for the region, which would in turn entice a good quality student and also more importantly, inward investment to the area.
WIT and CIT are two excellent educational institutions in our area and with our new road network, they have become even more accessible to our local students.
And going by the Junior Cert results that were received by our bright pupils this week, we clearly have no shortage of intellectual and skilled talent in this city and county — young people who are only looking for an appropriate course to hone their skills and interests.
That is why a university is a priority for our area. I remember in an interview with Mary O’ Rourke when she was minister a few years ago, she claimed that there would never be a university in Kilkenny and she may be right but it is looking more and more likely that there will be one in Waterford, which would be the next best scenario.
A university would open so many doors for our youth and for business in this region. The IDA has held back so much in the south east and one of the reasons could well be because we don’t have the skilled workforce in the area. All of our young educated students and graduates are elsewhere - cities where there are universities. And these cities have the advantage over ours because students are more likely to stay where there are jobs, than return home to an area where there are no jobs because there is little industry.
Hopefully the minister will be proactive in fastracking the upgrading of WIT to a university. Phil Hogan has said that he is committed to the plan and this week released a statement reiterating his support. Deputy John Paul Phelan met with the Minister for Enterprise and Jobs this week to highlight the plight of the south east and to impress upon him the importance of university status to the region. Hopefully this too will be taken on board.
In the meantime, we have to nurture what we have in Kilkenny. The off campus NUI Maynooth courses on offer in Kilkenny offer a wonderful opportunity to students to partake in a degree course while living in Kilkenny. There are also several degree courses on offer in both of the ITs in Waterford and Carlow so all is not lost.
We have some excellent financial companies based in Kilkenny including State Street and Tax Back.com and these companies are growing and hiring on daily basis as they seek skilled workers for positions. But we need more of this type of business to keep Kilkenny ticking over. We need people to live here in order to keep the economy in flux. The only way we do this is to create educational and job opportunities for people.
A university could be a big part of the solution. We now have the infrastructure in place in the form of roads so let us see the rest follow suit.