Canada’s growing need for more engineers
Canada is in need of engineers, badly. A report on the labor market in Canada found that 100,000 new engineers will be needed over the next decade to replace the engineers who are set to retire. The country is facing a skills gap in the engineering sector, and this could pose real (and expensive) problems for the country if those gaps are not filled.
While this news is troubling to Canadian legislators and industry heads, it is also good news for engineers and future engineers who either live in Canada or are considering moving to Canada.
The global economy has begun to shift downwards into a recession as the cost of living has increased. This is partially due to the worsening energy situation, climate crisis, and bounce-back after COVID-19. There are few industries that are growing right now, but the engineering sector certainly is, and this makes it an attractive prospect for jobseekers around the world.
Types of engineering expertise needed
Engineers Canada has reported that there is significant demand for engineers across Canada. According to its reporting, civil engineers are going to be in the most demand for the next few years, and the province of Ontario will employ between 12,000 and 13,000 civil engineers over the course of the next 10 years.
The highest demand will be for civil engineers who have experience with the architectural, engineering and related services industry, and the projected number of job openings will serve purely to meet current demand and replace retiring engineers – it could increase if demand and growth also increase.
Nearly every province is in need of hundreds of new engineers, and Alberta, Quebec, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan will also all be hiring. Other key engineering sectors will be oil and gas extraction, utilities, building, public administration, technical consulting and heavy engineering.
There is clearly a wide range of different specialties and experiences currently in demand, and engineers who are interested in pursuing a specific career or even trying to gain experience in new areas are presented with many opportunities in Canada.
One of the goals listed in Engineers Canada’s 2021 Annual Report is strategic recruitment, specifically recruiting more women to join the STEM and engineering field. It is hoping to increase the number of female engineers in the field to 30% by 2023. This is quite the hurdle as there are currently many obstacles facing women in the engineering field, including systematic misogyny, a lack of support at all levels (including early education), and discrimination in the workplace.
However, Engineers Canada is committing to this goal and in 2021 hosted its first 30 by 30 Conference, which brings together 30 champions of the sector who are engineers and engineering leaders. The conference focused on how to raise awareness and reach out to people who are part of underrepresented groups in the sector and how to make engineering workplaces and labs more accessible to members of those groups.
Engineers Canada is not just focusing on increasing the number of women engineers, but it also want to increase the number of engineers who are Black, Indigenous, people of color, LGBTQ2+ and disabled in order to make the industry a healthier, more dynamic and accessible sector.
Interestingly, increasing the diversity and equity of the engineering sector will not only benefit the engineers themselves, but will also improve the work produced. For years now, there have been articles written in major publications such as the Guardian, the Washington Post, and Time magazine about how AI and robotics projects exhibited misogynistic and racist behavior. The reason why these AI exhibited these traits was typical because they were either created by people with those behaviors or they were created by people who were not at all cognizant of the importance of coding against bigotry and bias.
An increase of diversity in the offices and labs of engineers around the world – including in Canada – can help to create technology that is itself less biased and more open to our diverse world. Engineers and engineering students who herald from typically excluded groups should highlight how their experience improves their work in job interviews and networking events.
Becoming an engineering manager
One engineering field that is always in demand for more talent is engineering management. Engineering managers are indispensable in companies of all sizes, and they provide the essential link between the work of engineers and the commercial aspects of the organizations they work for.
The path to becoming an engineering manager is not the smoothest or easiest to follow, but it can lead to an incredibly exciting career in which every day provides new and varied challenges. This career path is also a great opportunity for engineers who have an entrepreneurial streak and who want to one day create and market their own inventions or start their own companies.
The Canadian economy is due for a Silicon Valley-style boost in the form of new start-ups and
companies launching. Engineering managers can also find success working for large corporations that are either headquartered in Canada or have a regional office here.
In order to become an engineering manager, you first need to obtain an engineering degree from an accredited engineering program, gain a few years’ worth of experience in engineering, and then pursue a master’s degree. There are a number of different master’s degree programs available for students in Canada, including programs such as the uOttawa engineering management degree Canada, which offers a fully online, customizable course for students.
The prospect of returning to school can be daunting for engineers as the bachelor’s degree programs in engineering tend to be extremely difficult and competitive. However, engineering management courses are more specialized and focus on the commercial aspects of the sector, including finances and budgeting, project management, human resources, operations and managing innovation.
On top of that, some programs, such as the engineering management master’s degree at uOttawa, are fully remote and online. This allows learners to take the courses while working or caring for family members, and in doing so gives them much more flexibility.
Any students who have not yet tried distance learning and are apprehensive about taking an online course should try out a few of the online courses listed on platforms such as Coursera to give themselves a sense of what such a program would be like. They can also reach out to the recruitment teams at the universities they are interested in and request additional resources and information that could help them make a decision.
Students who are interested in working in Canada but do not yet have any Canadian professional or academic experience would also benefit from such a program as it would introduce them to Canadian standards and institutions and also give them a sense of what Canadian culture is like.
Where demand for engineers is strongest
Naturally, the needs for certain engineering specialties differ depending on the province, but every province is currently in need of more engineers. In fact, the need is so great that Engineers Canada called for easing the process of immigration and foreign qualification to be a major focus of the next few years.
Engineers who have experience in the energy sector, specifically in oil and gas or geotechnical engineering, are likely to find work in Alberta due to the province’s oil and gas industry or in mining industries in other provinces. The provinces of Ontario and British Columbia are constantly working to create more housing, so civil engineers who have experience with architecture are likely to flourish in the large cities and towns in these two provinces.
Canada is a country with a wealth of natural resources, and collecting, transporting and processing those resources all require engineering know-how and abilities. This means that engineers are needed across Canada in different capacities and that, regardless of your specialization, you are likely to find work as an engineer.
Engineering managers can find work within organizations or, if they do not require visa sponsorship, they can launch their own entrepreneurial ventures. Although Canada’s tech and innovation industry is smaller than that in the US, it is growing quickly and now is a great time to jump into the market.
If you are either a new graduate or a new immigrant to Canada and looking to connect with organizations and other engineers, there are a number of different industry bodies and groups that hold networking events and weekends. Many engineers who are already well established in their field are also open to mentorship, which is a great opportunity to learn from someone with more experience and take advantage of their connections in the industry.
Canada’s pro-immigration history
Canada was built by immigrants who spread across the continent and displaced the Indigenous peoples who were already living there. During the 17th and 18th centuries, settlement in Canada was not considered a priority by the European colonial administrators who were overseeing immigration efforts in Canada. Instead, Canada was viewed as a great place for adventurers and explorers to travel through and take advantage of natural resources.
This view of Canada eventually changed and administrators began to encourage settlement in the country in the hope that it would guarantee sovereignty over the lands and resources available there. Many of the European settlers came from France, England, Scotland, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, and later on Eastern Europe. The European settlors vied for control of the provinces and you can still see the history of this struggle today in Quebec’s intensely French national identity.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Canada accepted the immigration of American loyalists who fled following the US Revolutionary War along with a mass migration of Irish refugees who were escaping the Famine.
The beginning of the 20th century also saw a significant amount of immigration from Asian countries, including China and India. This led to a series of racist attacks and laws that were only acknowledged and repealed many decades later.
Canada still struggles with racism and injustice, but it is often ranked as one of the most multicultural countries in the world today, and this is a fact that is now widely celebrated across the country. Inverting the US phrase of the ‘melting pot’ society, Canadians describe the ideal Canadian society as a ‘salad’ in which everyone is simultaneously able to live together and express their sociocultural heritage.
Immigrating to Canada to work as an engineer
Although Canada has not always been welcoming to foreigners, it has a relatively open and welcoming history that continues to this day. These are policies that especially benefit skilled, experienced and highly trained workers such as engineers.
The federal government in Canada has been responsible for immigration policy since WWII, and after changing its name a number of times, the responsible department is now referred to as Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). This does not mean that the federal government has complete and total say over immigration, however.
Since 2017, all of the provinces have made agreements with IRCC that allow them to recruit and select certain immigrants based on their current economic needs. Interestingly (but perhaps unsurprisingly), Quebec is the province that has the most autonomy when it comes to selecting which immigrants and refugees they want and which they are willing to take in.
Quebec’s autonomy is in part because the Quebec government is very concerned with maintaining the French language in the province, and so it tends to focus on immigrants who come from French-speaking countries.
Recently, a new scheme was introduced that allows the provinces to create Provincial Nominee Programs. These allow the provinces to nominate specific applications they receive from individuals who wish to settle there. The successful candidates must then reside in that province for a set period of time before they are able to move to other provinces or apply for permanent residency. The purpose of these programs is to populate provinces that typically have very low populations and also to inject highly skilled and experienced professionals into those areas.
A number of provinces also allow for immigration applications to be fast-tracked, which means that the immigrant can have their application reviewed and (hopefully) approved on a shorter timeline. This is a popular mechanism as the immigration process can face some delays, but it also costs more money.
Engineers who have professional experience are likely to have their applications approved, but they can benefit their chances of being admitted into Canada by learning French, connecting with Canadian companies, and applying through one of the provincial immigration schemes.
A closer look at the Canadian economy
When venturing into Canada and considering work there as an engineer, it is worth taking the time to research and learn about the country’s economy. This way, you will be prepared for the pressures and challenges that will lie ahead of you.
The Canadian economy is described as a mixed market economy and it is listed as the eighth largest GDP by nominal and the 15th largest GDP by PPP in the world. As Canada is a developed nation, its economy is largely dominated by the service industry, which employs nearly 75% of Canadian citizens.
Canada has also been listed as one of the least corrupt countries in the world and is one of the world’s top 10 trading countries, according to the World Bank. It has a highly globalized economy, which is in keeping with Canada’s embrace of the world through multiculturalism. The unemployment rates are also fairly low and the literacy and education rates are incredibly high.
There are a number of different industries that essentially dominate the Canadian market and the jobs market. As anyone who has tried to rent an apartment in Vancouver or Toronto knows, the real estate, rental and leasing industry is Canada’s biggest and most profitable industry. In fact, real estate is such a big industry that it represents over 13% of the country’s GDP.
Real estate is a key sector for civil engineers and engineers with architectural experience as homes and large residential buildings are constantly in the process of being built, bought and sold. However, as more real estate comes on the market, other non-residential projects and infrastructure projects are also required to meet demand, so a range of engineering experiences is needed.
Following real estate is manufacturing, which represents over 10% of the country’s GDP. The biggest manufacturing companies currently in Canada include George Weston, NovaGold Resources, Magna International, Tungsten Collaborative, Nutrien, L3Harris Wescam and Bimbo Canada.
Finally, the third major industry is mining and oil and gas, which is an industry that relies on the innovation of engineers. This sector represents 8.21% of the country’s GDP, and the largest companies in the sector include Suncor Energy, Canadian Natural Resources and Imperial Oil.
As you can see, the biggest industries in Canada are all reliant on the expertise and brilliance of engineers. Canada needs more engineers and jobs aplenty can be found in these top industries.