There’s no denying it: the world is currently experiencing a shortage of engineers. The shortage isn’t limited to a single country, either. Nations worldwide are reporting shortages in a variety of engineering fields. In Canada, there are a little over 250,000 currently employed engineers. Experts estimate that by 2020, approximately 95,000 of those engineers will reach retirement. With engineering programs churning out approximately 12,000 new engineers each year, there simply isn’t enough talent to replace retiring engineers.
Despite having a relatively small population, Canada is well known for producing some of the world’s top engineers, with 3 Canadian schools ranking on the list of the world’s top 50 engineering schools last year. One issue facing the engineering industry is the lack of young people interested in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). We must strive to get more young people interested in these fields early. Canada designating March as National Engineering Month is a good start.
There’s also the issue of losing senior engineers. 62% of employers say that new engineering graduates do not have the skills they need, reports The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). This inability to fill senior roles is a contributing factor to the engineering skills gap. With the median age of engineers on the rise, this is an issue that’s not going away anytime soon.
where are the biggest skills gaps in canadian engineering?
According to the 2016 Global Engineering Report, conducted by Staffing Industry Analysts, employers are reporting “significant skills shortages in the engineering sectors.” The shortages aren’t limited to a single engineering discipline. Here are some of the top fields where skilled engineering talent is desperately needed.
Civil engineering covers a broad range of careers but generally tends to be focused on construction. Civil engineers are responsible for designing and overseeing the design and construction of all kinds of residential, commercial and government buildings, as well as infrastructure such as transportation, roads, bridges, water systems, power systems, tunnels, docks, airports, and hospitals.
With Canadian cities undergoing rapid growth in the post-recession economy, the federal government has pledged over $120 billion in investments to build and improve Canadian infrastructure over the next 5 years. Skilled civil engineers who are capable of designing and overseeing these burgeoning infrastructure projects are in intense demand. In fact, civil engineers currently top the list of most in-demand engineering professions.
Electrical engineers are concerned with the development, design, and manufacturing of electronics and any systems that use or transfer electricity. This means just about anything that can ‘power on’ involves an electrical engineer. Electrical engineers are instrumental in the design and improvements to consumer goods like computers, phones, smart devices, and appliances.
Electrical engineers can also be involved in designing power systems and grids, medical devices that require electricity, robotic or automated systems, radar, and fibre optics, among many other technologies. As you might imagine, in our increasingly tech-centric world, electrical engineers are in intense demand! The demand for electrical engineers is second only to civil engineers.
Mechanical engineers are responsible for designing, building, testing and improving machines of all kinds. Because the field is so broad, engineers often choose to specialize in one area of mechanical engineering such as building engines, hydraulics, pneumatics, pumps, turbines, or heating and cooling systems, among others.
Currently, the manufacturing sector is the largest employer for mechanical engineers. In a manufacturing plant, mechanical engineers may be responsible for designing and building products such as vehicles, generators, or air-conditioning systems, however, they’re also the minds behind the machines that are used manufacturing a variety of consumer goods and products we use on a daily basis. It’s up to mechanical engineers to devise efficient, cost-saving machines that are capable of manufacturing products.
Automotive engineers fall under the scope of mechanical engineering because automotive engineers primarily deal with the building of machines and engines. The automotive sector is being driven by the price oil, unsurprising for an industry creating machines dependent on fuel.
A recent drop in crude oil prices boosted employment prospects in the industry. Further, low-interest rates have encouraged more people to buy vehicles. The uptick in automotive sales has led to an increased need for engineers who specialize in vehicle design and innovation.
Biomedical engineers are responsible for designing machines and devices such as hearing aids, implanted devices (such as pacemakers), health monitoring systems, diagnostic tools, surgical devices, artificial limbs and organs, and medical treatments, among others. Just about any technology that is used to diagnose or treat medical conditions was created by a biomedical engineer.
As Canada’s aging baby boomer population heads into retirement, their health care needs are expected to swell. Healthcare is already a $228 billion industry in Canada, with an average cost of over $6200 per person! As you can imagine, the demand for new and more efficient medical technology shows no signs of slowing down, and continued innovation in the field will be vital to providing a high quality of life for Canada’s growing senior population in the coming years. Engineers looking for long-term roles will find biomedical engineering offers great opportunities to establish a career where there’s plenty of room to grow and settle into a rewarding career where you’re contributing to the betterment of society.
how are engineering shortages affecting canada's economy?
Engineering jobs provide a foundation for other jobs. According to Engineering UK’s 2016 report ‘The State of Engineering,’ for every new engineering role created, two additional jobs are created on a broader scale. Simply put, strong job opportunities for engineers helps build infrastructure and drive innovation in satellite industries. When engineers are successful, we all are.
The reverse is also true. When engineering jobs cannot be filled, projects may be delayed or understaffed, which can impact the profitability of companies and affect their customer relationships. When organizations have trouble recruiting in engineering fields, there’s a trickle-down effect. Therefore, efficiently finding engineers becomes even more important, to ensure there’s no ripple effect in key job markets that rely on the expertise of engineers, such as manufacturing, resource extraction, construction, public service, and others.
The biggest issue facing Canadian engineering is the lack of interest in the field among young people. It’s in our best interest to ensure that we’re encouraging young Canadians to get into engineering and ensure they understand that there are opportunities for them to build a thriving career in the field.