The short answer: lots of good things. At the moment there are lots of exciting developments on the horizon for STEM talent. Opportunities for STEM professionals who have the right combination of hard and soft skills are booming. It’s not just the Internet of Things that will continue its explosive growth through 2018; virtually every industry willing to innovate and adapt will be touched (or punched in the face, if they’re slow to respond) by change and growth across all STEM fields.
2018 is shaping up to be an interesting year, expanding and contracting in response to disruptive forces locally and globally. From escalating trade wars to stock markets that could easily be mistaken for rollercoasters, to record low unemployment, there’s a lot going on in the world at the moment.
where canadian STEM fields are now
Canadian entrepreneurship is at the heart of career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math. More companies, government programs, venture capitalists, and organizations – Canadian and global – are investing in training, research and development at levels not seen since the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s.
It’s anticipated the drive for the cloud, mobile technologies, and increased data and digital content will continue through 2018 and well into 2019, if not longer. That’s great news, particularly for IT professionals who will benefit from increased spending for their services to $8.7 billion by 2019, an increase of $1.1 billion from 2015.
canadian investment in STEM fields
Canada’s Innovation and Skills Plan, outlined in the 2017 budget, focuses on how best to support Canadians impacted by the dramatic changes to the world of work and the subsequent impact to the Canadian economy. Its emphasis is on innovation to create jobs with a focus on six key areas—advanced manufacturing, agriculture and food, clean technology, digital industries, health and bio-sciences, and clean resources. The plan will also invest in science, research, and development as a way of retaining Canadian professionals in these fields. That’s more good news for STEM grads.
Regardless of field, STEM professionals will be encouraged to and supported as they strive towards lifelong learning and constant adaptation to the changing nature of work. This is imperative if Canada is to remain strong and competitive in STEM fields.
engineering is one of canada’s strongest STEM fields
For engineering graduates, opportunities will come as a result of a looming labour crisis in the field as an estimated 20% of current engineers 55 years or older head towards retirement. This means there are lots of opportunities for eager young engineers to make their mark in the field, especially those with training or interest in increasing efficiencies through technology and automation. The focus for engineers through 2018 will be on uncovering ways to reduce waste and improve quality and sustainability. Technological advancements will result in leaner, more highly skilled engineers able to streamline and increase their output while maintaining a high level of quality.
Recently, the Wall Street Journal identified engineering as one of the fastest-growing areas, particularly biomedical engineering, as health care dominates the list of fastest-growing jobs. It’s expected to grow by 72%, according to the U.S. Department of Labour. The same trend is expected for engineers in Canada, whose level of growth is, while not as high, equally impressive. Into 2018, engineers across all specialties will depend on their creativity and adaptability to work across disciplines, departments, and industries.
the canadian tech sector is booming, too
The tech sector in Canada is looking strong at the moment, too. A few months ago Toronto was added to the shortlist for Amazon’s HQ2, a much hyped about project that’s been the talk of the tech world for months. Among the reasons for the selection are Canada’s strong pool of tech talent, and relative affordability compared to comparable tech-centres in the US.
Other big names in tech are also making themselves at home in Canada, such as Uber and Google’s Sidewalk Labs which have established bases in Toronto. Meanwhile, Montreal has become internationally recognized as an innovator and leader in the AI space. Waterloo is also expanding their tech offerings at a steady clip. Waterloo was recently named the fastest growing tech market in Canada, having grown by over 65% in the last 5 years. That equates to adding about 8,400 new tech jobs. That makes Waterloo the second fastest growing tech market in North America after Charlotte, North Carolina. In Canada, only Toronto added more total jobs, with a whopping 51,300 new jobs created over the last 5 years, for a growth rate of 31%.
Axios also recently penned an article about how American tech talent is migrating north. The report noted that many tech firms saw double or triple the rates of applicants hailing from abroad. 82% of those applicants were American. Why the huge surge? Last summer Canada introduced an expedited visa process for skilled workers – including those in tech – which can take as little as 10 days to process. Meanwhile, the US has become increasingly hostile to immigrants.
As we head deeper into 2018, employers will continue to look for the skills associated with STEM learning: the ability to solve problems and make decisions, obtain and process information, and analyze, extrapolate and apply data. Innovation is key to Canada’s ability to remain competitive as the world economy moves closer to a knowledge-based economy. To do so requires the highly skilled, innovative and adaptable workforce represented by specialists across all STEM fields. It’s their capabilities and knowledge upon which organizations will continue to depend to introduce best practices and technologies critical to profitability and growth in the new normal.