The state of engineering: trends we’re seeing in 2017

In Canada, March was National Engineering Month. Throughout the month, events took place to attract young people to various fields under the engineering umbrella, and show the importance of being a part of a field that positively affects all parts of Canadian society.  Even so, with the results of the Randstad Engineering Salary Survey 2017 in mind, some trends that emerged may be cause for alarm.

  • Between 2011 and 2020, about 111,000 engineering jobs will become available in Canada. Most of these positions will be to replace retirees, and be directed at engineers with more than 10 years of experience.
  • Of the 182,000 engineers entering the workforce leading up to 2020, most will lack enough sector specific experience to qualify for available positions.
  • Engineering faces severe underemployment due to lack of available jobs and applicants who lack appropriate sector specific experience.1

engineering trends 2017

the misalignment of skills and jobs

Our current research indicates that approximately 20% of engineers are 55 or older. That would suggest lots of opportunity for engineering graduates, but according to OSPE (Ontario Society of Professional Engineers), that isn’t the case. OSPE identifies a mismatch between what employers describe as a shortage of workers with the specialized skills they need, and engineers who are unable to find relevant, appropriate work.

We’re left with a lot of questions, some with uncertain answers. Does the problem lie in the misalignment of recruitment processes of employers and how and where engineering candidates search for work? Is there indeed a scarcity of trained professionals or a scarcity of professionals with the right kind of training? Are there too many engineering graduates whose job-related skills are insufficient? Or are there simply too few jobs being created?

The answers to these difficult questions depend on which sector you ask. Employment in the US for software engineers is expected to expand by 17% through 2024 as a result of continued rapid growth in Internet applications and software. 2 Canadian electrical and electronics engineers will find employment in architectural, engineering and related services industries between now and 2025. Civil engineers will find opportunities in industries like construction and infrastructure.

Across all specialties, engineers with skills and experience will find themselves replacing their retiring colleagues. They and their colleagues will need to advance their technical capabilities and communication skills in order to be viably employed. But information like this, as positive as it is, still doesn’t address the employer/job seeker employment conundrum.

how can employers ensure the engineering sector thrives?

Employers have a role to play in the employability of engineers across all specialties by adjusting their hiring criteria to include recent and international grads with the education but perhaps not the Canadian experience and soft skills they require.

A willingness to train and help these individuals develop their skills will result in engaged, experienced professionals, especially if they are also competitively compensated and offered opportunities for growth. By being active participants, employers will go a long way to opening up employment opportunities for less experienced or internationally trained engineering specialists and in so doing, build the professionals they need from a wider talent pool that is ready and eager to learn and engage. 

Across all engineering sectors and specialties, one thing is clear: continuous learning, development of soft skills, embracing new technologies and managing expectations are critical to engineers determined to stay employed and thrive within their organizations.



1 Crisis in Canada’s Engineering Labour Market – OSPE Labour Market Seminar; March 2015. https://www.ospe.on.ca/public/documents/presentations/crisis-canada-engineering-labour-market.pdf

2 http://www.cbsnews.com/media/americas-10-toughest-jobs-to-fill-in-2017/10/

about the author

Kristen Smalley - Content Manager

As someone who firmly believes that variety is the spice of life, content marketing has been a natural career path for me. Every day brings a chance to think creatively and learn about exciting new topics. Whether it's tackling content on employment trends, how to handle tough interview questions, or keeping safe in the workplace, there's always interesting topics waiting to be explored in the world of work!

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