Is Canada experiencing an engineering labour shortage?

Engineers Canada study predicts significant shortages in certain engineering sectors in the short and long term.

Comments Off on Is Canada experiencing an engineering labour shortage? April 11, 2011
by Design Engineering staff

Ottawa, ON. — Engineers Canada and recruitment firm, Randstad Engineering, have produced a Canadian labour market study that gives an overview of the current supply and demand for engineers in multiple disciplines and geographical areas. The study also projects labour demand to 2018, based in part on current university enrolment, immigration and predicted rates of retirement by province and discipline.

While engineering employment across all disciplines and geographies will experience a moderate average annual growth of 1.5 percent above all Canadian employment from 2010 to 2018, the report predects the need for experienced personnel will spike significantly in certain disciplines and provinces.

For example, the study states that employers across Canada will experience significant supply shortages for qualified (more than five years experience) engineers in the industrial and manufacturing discipline for the majority of the next decade.

According to the market analysis, “Chronic labour shortages will continue across the scenario given the current levels of immigration and post secondary enrolments.” This market condition, the report predicts, may encourage mechanical engineers, for whom there is projected market balance, to transition to this sector.

Similarly, experienced petroleum-related engineers—which may include mechanical, chemical and other engineers with petroleum specific experience—will remain in high demand as will demand for engineers specialized in aerospace.

On the other hand, demand for software and “other” engineers (including mining, geological, metallurgical and materials) will remain balanced for the coming decade with exceptions in certain fields.

Provincially, Saskatchewan, the Atlantic Provinces and Ontario will see the largest shortages of experienced engineers across all disciplines, the study predicts.

The report also points to three challenges facing engineering employment. Primary among them is “the chronic and serious under-supply of junior engineer jobs,” the study states.

Coupling this shortage with industry’s strong preference for engineers with 5-10 of specialized experience, the profession faces a glut of engineering graduates who have difficulty gaining the experience needed for employment. Consequently, there are fewer qualified local or national candidates available.

This Catch-22, the report says, has lead to increased immigration of engineers under Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker program. The analysis also suggests that “skill shortages are at least as important as cost factors, if not more important, in driving the increase in off-shoring.”

For a complete break down of the Canadian labour market, the full report is available online as a PDF on Engineers Canada’s web site.