Approaching the age gap

18 April 2017

Two-thirds of job openings for engineers in Canada are related to retirement replacement, according to a report released by the association Engineers Canada.

At least 60 per cent of the job openings for civil, mechanical and electrical engineers will be related to the replacement of retiring engineers. That number increases to nearly 70 per cent of industrial and manufacturing engineers, and exceeds 70 per cent for geological engineers.

This is not news to the tunnelling industry, which has grown its Young Members groups worldwide over the last five years.

In Canada there are a number of initiatives underway to address the shift of knowledge and help mitigate Engineers Canada’s estimated shortage of 100,000 engineers over the next few years. Last month deans from five universities authored a letter through the Institute of Public Policy’s magazine, Policy Options, calling on industry leaders to “capitalize on the exceptional training and experience of engineering postgraduate-degree holders by hiring them and keeping them here.” They also made the astute reminder that provincial and federal policymakers can “further incentivize industry through tax policy that encourages the hiring of Canadian-trained graduate engineering students.”

This is truly a time for an all-hands-on-deck mentality, and the letter writers should be applauded for appealing to not only those who hire but also to government officials. The responsibility of ensuring Canada has qualified engineers falls to everyone.

It is important to avoid solely focusing on and monitoring the need to fill positions available to newly-graduated engineers and entry-level roles - such a lapse could be just as detrimental.

Industry leaders must plan to maintain the specialized knowledge that will leave an organization, and an industry, with each retirement, while simultaneously preparing the next generation of employees to move into advanced roles.

Engineers established in their careers, companies and industries, too have a responsibility, and must be mindful of the experience and management training they need to obtain now to move into senior leadership roles soon.

There are a multitude of programs in Canada, and worldwide to share with school children, scout groups, young women and university students, among other groups, the benefits of engineering, the opportunities in engineering and so forth. These are without a doubt necessary and commendable outreach efforts. Find ways to encourage everyone, at every pay grade to take on the responsibility of the next step