Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 11 September 2014
“Technical Memories (Part 88) – A Nation of Regions”
“The Minister noted that industrial development called for even wider and more varied activity in the educational sphere, and the Cork City Vocational Education Committee had always been conscious of its responsibility to make sound and proper provision for technical and technician training accordingly. It now had provided the means for apprentice tradesmen to get proper training for the important industries of building and furniture” (journalist, Irish Times, 27 February, 1965, p.6).
The years 1963-1965 were key years for economic policy making in Ireland. The first Economic Programme published by the Government in November 1958 was a 50-page document containing general statements of government policy and giving an indication of the aids to production which the government proposed. The first part of the Second Programme for Economic Expansion was published in August 1963 and the second part in July 1964. The policy focused on expenditures for education, with a doubling of expenditures planned, and high production goals for the dairy industry.
The 1960s coincided with a major thrust in the development of technical education with the publication of Investment in Education in 1962 and Training of Technicians in Ireland in 1964. The then Minister for Education, Dr Patrick Hillery, in May 1963 signalled the Government’s intention to arrange with appropriate vocational education committees the provision of a limited number of technical colleges with regional status, the establishment of comprehensive schools and access by students to all public examinations.
In a Dáil Éireann speech on Wednesday, 5 February 1964, Dr Hillery, commented that the regional technical colleges were to provide courses for all three of the following: (a) The Technical Leaving Certificate, (b) Apprentice training and (c) High level technician training. The arrangement was to avoid as far as possible a duplication of staff and equipment. Regional Colleges were to cater on a nation-wide basis for various specialised occupations. The Minister envisaged about ten such colleges. In addition to Dublin (with two centres), Cork and Limerick, the long term was to have colleges at Waterford, Galway, Dundalk, Sligo, Athlone, and Carlow. He noted in the Dáil: “The establishing of these Regional Technical Colleges and courses involves the question of sites, plans, financing, building, syllabuses, staffing and organising generally. Planning in these regards is proceeding as rapidly as possible”.
Fast forward by a year and a journalist with The Irish Times outlines on 27 February 1965 the visit of Minister Hillery to Cork to open the Cork School of Building and Cork School of Furniture on Sawmill Street (the previous day). During his speech Dr Hillery outlined plans for various technical trades and commented that his department was committed to broadening the scope of technical education of all levels throughout the country through the provision of regional technical colleges. Minister Hillery noted that the government’s intention was that there would be reasonably large scholarship provision “to enable good students to avail themselves of the courses so that national progress would not be held back because of an inadequate supply of suitable qualified technical personnel”.
A significant factor in the provision of the new colleges was the organisation by An Cheard-Chomhairle of apprentice training. The furniture trades had already become designated trades by a decision of the Chomhairle. This meant that an educational standard had been set for admission to apprenticeships and a training schedule had been drawn up for apprentices, which included a certain amount of school work. The aims of An Cheard-Chomhairle for the raising of the standard of craftsmanship could not be achieved unless the proper facilities for schooling were provided. Government policy noted that for some trades, it was uneconomic and impracticable to have apprentice training facilities at every vocational school or even in every large centre of population. Accordingly, for the furniture trades, three regional centres for apprenticeship training were set up – a school in Cork, a section of Bolton Street College in Dublin, and the School at Navan, Co Meath. They aimed to improve standards of craftsmanship and rates of production. The Minister in Cork remarked of their need and the building activity across the country; “At a time when there were feverish signs of building activity to be seen in every town and village and sometimes also in the open spaces of the countryside, it was scarcely necessary to indicate how desirable and necessary it was to give the soundest possible basic training to young people in the various building trades. The building trades had not yet been declared designated but things were shaping that way”.
By May 1965 and the publication of the first progress report in the second programme for Economic Expansion, plans were advanced for the regional technical colleges. Tenders for the building of some of the colleges were to be invited by the end of that year. In addition, an OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, founded in 1961) survey on investment in Irish education was published to critique what areas of science policy should be advanced. It refers to a detailed and valuable report on “Technology and Technical Manpower” prepared by Cumann na n-Innealteoirí, which was to provide a framework for future engineering courses.
To be continued…
759a. This map published in The Irish Times, 26 May 1965 shows overlapping government regions; the black lines are the borders of the Bord Fáilte regions; the dotted lines represent the physical planning regions; the cities and towns named represent the sites of the new regional technical colleges (source: Cork City Library).