The pandemic had a significant impact on many sectors. But it wasn’t negative for all industries. Engineering is one industry that is evolving, and experts predict growth and innovation will be at the forefront of the industry.

Future post-pandemic careers have shifted to be more innovation-driven. Critical sectors such as engineering require innovation to thrive in the post-pandemic era. However, there are gaps in employer talent needs and the supply of qualified professionals and workers to nurture innovations in these sectors. The situations during the COVID-19 pandemic have widened and worsened this gap.

Below we’ll provide you with an overview of where the engineering industry is after the pandemic. We’ll look at the most in-demand jobs, sectors, and specific skills talent will require in the future.

engineering has some of the most in-demand jobs in Canada in wake of COVID-19

While many industries have been hit hard by the pandemic, there are a select few that are thriving. Industries such as IT and engineering are in the midst of a hiring boom. For example, as reported by Immigration.ca, “Ottawa is forecasting that there will be 64,200 new jobs for software developers in Canada over the decade ending in 2028.” These jobs can pay between $42,178 and $112,125 per year.

The Engineering Labour Market Report by Engineers Canada predicts growth across the majority of engineering specializations. The demand is being created for many reasons, with a leading cause being the need to replace retiring engineers as they exit the workforce. The biggest areas being affected are civil, mechanical, electrical, electronic, and computer engineering. This is an important factor that will affect the industry as the baby boomer generation retires.

But the challenge for employers is finding qualified candidates. The engineering industry is changing. Its vital for talent just coming out of school and experienced professionals alike to keep their skills, certifications, and qualifications updated to meet current standards. This is an ongoing challenge engineers, and the industry in general, will face in the coming year.

how the pandemic has changed engineering

The pandemic is another significant factor affecting the future of engineering careers in Canada. It has changed the demand for jobs and affected the types of knowledge and skills that will be needed from future engineering school graduates.

The development of a vaccine is a prime example of something that has had a transformative impact. Vaccine specialists have become a particularly important role. But you also need site reliability engineers and need people who have an engineering background to support the development and distribution of vaccines throughout the community.

“To make a vaccine you need a village, you need all kinds of skill sets,” says Fabien Marino, the vice-president of industrial affairs and Toronto site head for Sanofi, a Paris-based biopharmaceutical provider to The Globe and Mail.

 “You need scientists, you need engineers, you need supply-chain experts, you need data scientists now that we’re moving toward a more digital world, you need operators, you need maintenance people.”

Here are other ways the pandemic has changed engineering:

  • Education: What is being taught, how to administer classes, and how students were being assessed must be reimagined. Lockdowns provided institutions with an opportunity to reconsider how things were being done and ways they could improve the education process.
  • Changing workplace requirements: The pandemic created the need for new technology and systems to support the prevention and spread of COVID-19. Ventilation, air filtration systems, personal protective equipment, and innovations have come to the forefront. Engineers require new skills to create and innovate in these areas.
  • Collaboration: The pandemic fostered an environment of collaboration. Companies, industries, countries and professionals from around the globe came together to solve pandemic-related problems. How companies operate will need to evolve to continue this level of collaboration.

The pandemic adds to Canada’s fastest-growing in-demand job category

Engineering jobs are commonly considered some of the hardest jobs to fill. Roles require specific skills, qualifications, and experience. So, finding the right candidate can take more time than jobs in other industries. It is estimated that 46% of engineering employers report recruitment difficulties.

The pandemic has contributed to this talent scarcity. Engineers retired, career growth and education halted to some degree, creating a gap in the skills employers desire and what candidates possess.

Plus, there has been an increased demand for engineering skills by companies. Engineering abilities are commonly cited by employers as new skills needed. Digital transformation and innovation have led to an increase in demand for engineering and tech talent across all industries in Canada.

More companies need people with these skills to help with software and technology development, product creation, logistics, construction, and many other projects. Engineering talent is needed in construction, high tech, manufacturing, scientific and technical services

This need has filtered down to an increase in demand for engineering graduates. Companies are seeking out talent who can work in robotics, artificial intelligence, pharmaceuticals, and FinTech. The need for digital talent has exploded. Tech start-ups, e-commerce and the digitization of business operations are leading the way.

All of this has created strong competition for engineering talent in the Canadian marketplace. Companies need to be prepared with a strong recruiting pitch, compensation plan and be proactive to fill their internal talent requirements.

sectors with high demand for engineering roles

Engineers play a significant role in different industries. They are heavily involved in:

  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Oil and gas
  • Mining
  • IT
  • Robotics and AI
  • FinTech (insurance, banking, real estate, financial services)
  • Start-ups

The need for engineers in the above industries has created a demand for the following types of engineers. Below are projected hiring numbers for in-demand positions:

  • Civil engineers: 1800 jobs annually.
  • Mechanical engineers: 2100 jobs per year.
  • Electronics engineers: 1800 jobs per year.
  • Manufacturing engineers: 600 jobs per year.
  • Computer engineers: 800 jobs per year.
  • Software engineers: 1250 jobs per year.

*Projects provided by Engineers Canada, Engineering Labour Market in Canada – Projections to 2025 Report

Civil engineering jobs are on the rise as businesses and municipalities adjust to the changes brought on by the pandemic. Work shutdowns, restrictions, supply chain issues, and social distancing are new challenges civil engineers and construction companies face.

Additionally, the focus on green and smart technology will increase demand.

SNC Lavalin explains:

“Worldwide, 65% of city officials agree that smart cities will be an important feature of the post-pandemic world. Not only can they offer a solution to traffic congestion, enhance citizen and government engagement and provide safer communities, but they also create new opportunities within green engineering. The rise of smart cities -—a top design and technology trend to watch out for in 2022 and beyond—is just one example of how civil engineers can help build a greener future.”

engineering skills in demand

Engineering skill requirements are changing. As a professional, you will need to add new skills to grow your career. As an employer, you’ll need to adjust your expectations of candidates. Here are the top hard and soft skills that are in-demand in engineering:

  • Problem-solving
  • Communications
  • Project management
  • Blockchain
  • Programming
  • Data science
  • Cloud computing
  • Cybersecurity
  • Augmented reality and virtual reality (AI, robotics)

Certification goes hand in hand with skills development. As a candidate, acquiring additional certification and training is an important step to make yourself a top candidate. Top certifications to consider include:

  • Structural Engineer (SE)
  • Professional Engineer (PE)
  • Engineer in Training (EIT)
  • Certified Engineer Technologist (CET)
  • Computer Aided Design and Drafting (CADD)
  • Electronic Systems Technician (EST)

looking forward

Like many other areas of society, engineering is evolving. With innovation and constant change, there is a need for skills development and agility. Focusing on upskilling and new ways of doing business are at the forefront.

upskilling takes prominence

Upskilling is essential for employers and professionals. New technology, changing skill requirements, and ever-changing work environments will require the constant need for professional growth and development.

From a job seeker's perspective, while still important, there will be less emphasis placed on educational qualifications. Employers will seek out candidates who have the current in-demand skills. Upskilling ensures you are as qualified as possible as employers update their qualification requirements.

As an employer, you can use upskilling to add in-demand skills. You can address your talent gaps by offering upskilling, training, and coaching to your current team. Offer professional development opportunities to ensure your company still is competitive in your industry.

there is a need to be open-minded

How people work is evolving. New graduates and engineers looking for work opportunities need to be open to different arrangements. Be open to working for a start-up instead of limiting your job search to a traditional engineering firm. Be open to the idea of consulting or working on a freelance basis to gain invaluable experience.

As an employer, be willing to offer more flexible work arrangements – remote and work from home opportunities. Be open to the idea of hiring people active in the gig economy to give yourself more flexibility. Be open-minded to new ways of going things to improve your efficiencies, innovate, and be more competitive.

about the author

Jeremy Peters

President, Randstad Engineering