Hold on to your hat if you work in a STEM job (that’s Science, Technology, Engineering or Math, for those of you not in the know.) The demand for skilled workers in those fields in Canada has already exceeded supply, especially in technology, and it’s only increasing. If you thought the need for innovation and discovery was slowing down anytime soon, fasten your seatbelt because STEM jobs are just getting started.
the good news for STEM jobs
The good news is if you have a healthy balance of technical, professional and personal skills you can write your own ticket. The highest demand for ICT workers between now and 2020 will be in the finance and healthcare sectors; keep that in mind if you’re thinking of changing careers.
What else is good about STEM jobs? The rate of employment is high. As a large number of senior level engineers, tech professionals and scientists prepare to retire, there are lots of opportunities for fresh, young talent to build satisfying careers with steady advancement. STEM jobs generally pay well beyond the rate of inflation and continue to increase. Career opportunities are boundless in almost every industry, increasing as fast as new technologies are being developed. And we know how fast that is.
the bad news for STEM jobs
The existing ICT demographic needs an overhaul as well. Women, visible minorities, persons with disabilities, Indigenous people and immigrants are still underrepresented in STEM positions. Wage gaps need to be addressed, and organizations and governments need to make improvements in areas of diversity and inclusion by amending policies and creating strategies that attract, retain and engage underrepresented professionals. Initiatives need to be developed that provide existing workers with opportunities to add to and increase existing skills so they can participate in the new digital workplace.
the ugly news for STEM jobs
What’s ugly for others, such as the current US administration’s anti-immigration policy, is actually turning out to be good for Canada. Not only has Canada become the destination of choice for skilled international STEM professionals, but we’re also attracting professionals from the US. At the same time as the US barred and delayed entry into the country, the Canadian government announced an expedited work-permit and shortened approval visa processes for the same foreign talent. Investment in start-ups and high-tech innovation is being supported by unprecedented venture capital funding and by the government’s own 2017 budget, which included a comprehensive Innovation and Skills Plan. Is it perfect? No, but it’s a work in progress, a government putting its money where its mouth is.
What’s encouraging and exciting for STEM professionals is that their contributions are highly valued and in demand across all industries. It seems the age of disruption has, in transforming most industries, uncovered limitless opportunities for trained, skilled workers, young people willing to think outside the box and seasoned employees who sharpen their existing skills and dive into new ones. Change is good, bad and sometimes ugly. But it’s never indifferent. How we respond to it determines our outcomes.