Evidence of meeting #29 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was labour.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Tracey Leesti  Director, Labour Statistics, Statistics Canada
  • Marc Lachance  Assistant Director, Labour Statistics, Statistics Canada
  • Josée Bégin  Director, Centre for Education Statistics, Statistics Canada
  • Michael McCracken  Chair and Chief Operating Officer, Informetrica Limited
  • Marie Carter  Chief Operating Officer, Interim Chief Executive Officer, Engineers Canada
  • Alana Lavoie  Manager, Government Relations, Engineers Canada

4:30 p.m.

Chair and Chief Operating Officer, Informetrica Limited

Michael McCracken

We worked on a number of major projects in the seventies and eighties, and who would be allowed to work was always a contentious issue, even within the union side. It had to do with trying to first get jobs for their own members before going out more broadly.

I thought those had fairly well disappeared, but it sounds like, again, in a hot spot, you're going to get some people reacting to that. I would think it would be worth bringing pressure on both the unions and the labour departments provincially to ask what this is. We don't want them to be in a position of controlling access to the workplace.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

We've done that with Vale and the provincial government.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Your time is certainly up.

I would like to thank the witnesses for their presentations. We certainly appreciated hearing from you, and we'll certainly take them into account when preparing our report.

Thank you very much.

The meeting is suspended.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

We'll start. I understand we may have bells interrupting, and if that's the case, we'll stop when we think it's appropriate.

One of the witnesses who was to appear is not here. I'll perhaps ask the clerk to just advise us, next meeting, on what the situation was.

We have presenters from Engineers Canada. Marie Carter is chief operating officer, and Alana Lavoie is manager of government relations.

Marie will present, and then, as is the practice, we'll open it up to questioning.

Go ahead, please.

4:40 p.m.

Marie Carter Chief Operating Officer, Interim Chief Executive Officer, Engineers Canada

Thank you very much. I do appreciate being invited to come and speak to you.

As indicated, my name is Marie Carter. I'm actually this week the interim chief executive officer, so I'm wearing two hats at the moment.

Engineers Canada is the national body that represents the 12 regulators of engineering in Canada. We represent more than 250,000 licensed engineers in the country.

At Engineers Canada we're aware, very aware, of the current and future labour shortages in engineering. In 2009 we carried out a labour market conditions report, which annually we update, and many of our engineering labour markets are characterized at the moment by a surplus of recent graduates with little or no experience but a shortage of people with five to ten years of experience. Those people who have specialized, practical experience are in quite short supply right now in Canada.

A 2008 report from the Information and Communications Technology Council indicated that between 2008 and 2015, Canadian employers would be looking to recruit some 126,000 to 180,000 workers in the engineering and technology fields.

We're looking at an average of some 16,000 to just over 22,000 people per year, with the supply of our domestic graduates meeting only a half to two-thirds of that demand, depending on what discipline we're looking at. We know that new graduates aren't a substitute for the experienced engineers with the specialized technical skills.

For the civil, mechanical, electrical, and petroleum engineering labour markets, the report projects low excess supply all the way through to 2018 and probably beyond. With retirements as well, we're creating challenges in recruiting experienced engineers in many of these fields in later years.

For the industrial and manufacturing engineering labour market, the report further notes that chronic labour shortages are projected to 2018, given the current levels of immigration and post-secondary enrolments.

We do our own annual report, entitled Trends in Engineering Enrolment and Degrees Awarded. The most recent one reported on 2010, when we had a total of 11,450 undergraduate degrees in engineering. In that year, mechanical engineering remained the program in which the most undergraduate degrees were awarded, following by electrical, civil, and chemical. So the standard old engineering programs are the ones that are still attracting a majority of the students.

To attempt to address the shortage that's evident now and into the future, the engineering profession is undertaking several actions. First, we're looking to the under-represented groups in engineering—women and indigenous people—to ensure diversity in the profession and help fill the skills gap.

According to the 2006 census, although women comprised 47% of the total workforce, we comprised only 13% of the engineering workforce. In fact, from our most recent data on actual licensed engineers, we're about 10% of the licensed professional engineers in the country.

The plateau of females pursuing engineering contrasts with the rise of female participation in other previously male-dominated occupations, such as law and medicine. For example, in the 20-year period from 1986 to 2006, the proportion of women who were lawyers and doctors increased by almost 17% and about 13.5% respectively, whereas for engineers we increased by only 6%.

So we do have a big untapped resource there with women, and we know that we have a lot of room for incorporating indigenous people into the engineering profession.

We're setting targets. We're improving access to training programs for engineers and fostering greater flexibility in the delivery of the engineering curriculum.

Secondly, we're forming partnerships with national and provincial indigenous-focused organizations—there is a big drive in Alberta with our Alberta association on this—to develop tools to promote engineering to indigenous students, targeting outreach and support programs that run right from kindergarten to university, because clearly you need to be on the path to get the appropriate high school credits to get going in engineering, and to raise the interest.

We're working to raise industrial and government financial support for programs to assist indigenous students in engineering disciplines. Manitoba has a reasonable bridging program at the University of Manitoba for indigenous people, but this really does need to be more widespread in the country.

Finally, over the last 10 years, Engineers Canada and our constituent associations have undertaken a number of projects to help ensure the timely integration of international engineering graduates into our profession and into the workforce. As a brief example, one of our current initiatives is the international engineering graduate road map, and that will be a comprehensive one-stop shop, essentially. It's a resource to ease the start of the international engineering graduate's navigation through the process of becoming licensed in Canada.

With support from HRSDC, we undertook a big project called “From Consideration to Integration”. One of the items that was identified as an issue was just the understanding from the immigrant's point of view of how our system in Canada works, so this project should really provide a lot more clarity from that perspective.

We've undertaken a lot of our projects in partnership with the federal government, not only with HRSDC but also with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and we look forward to continuing that very successful working relationship.

From our perspective, we would strongly encourage the federal government and provincial and territorial governments to continue to focus on supporting strong science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education at all levels, with special emphasis on the under-represented groups, while also continuing to work with various professions to improve the foreign qualifications assessment and recognition process.

We know from our contacts in the regulated professions that we're probably leading in a lot of the initiatives in how far we've come with being able to recognize the foreign credentials, and also in making it easier for foreign-trained people to apply from offshore, to get the process started, and to understand what they need to do to get going.

From our perspective, we're quite proud of the work we're doing to address the current and future labour shortages in our profession.

Thank you very much. I'd be happy to answer questions.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Thank you for the very interesting presentation.

You have done some good work, and there is more work to be done.

We'll open it up to questions.

Ms. Hughes, you'll go first in this round.

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Thank you very much.

I think it's quite interesting that you've talked about the 6% of untapped resources. You've indicated some of the initiatives that you've undertaken or are starting to take in order to move in that direction and tap into that.

You mentioned the aboriginals and women specifically, so I'm just wondering.... I know that we've talked about foreign credentials. During that study, we also talked about the aboriginal population. We've heard from organizations and businesses about their interventions to ensure that there are education initiatives, and we've heard about the training initiatives they've undertaken, so I'm just wondering if you could elaborate a bit more about some of your initiatives that you're undertaking, especially in the aboriginal.... It's good to say that we're going to go out there and raise the awareness, but if the funding is not there so they can go to school, there's still a problem.

4:50 p.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Interim Chief Executive Officer, Engineers Canada

Marie Carter

Absolutely, yes. The 6% that I referred to is only the increase in women. From the perspective of women, 50% of our population, really, is untapped. From the perspective of the whole aboriginal issue, we entered into an agreement with the Assembly of First Nations to try to work collectively on this issue.

We first started looking at this about eight or nine years ago. We reached out to the Assembly of First Nations, and we got in a number of people who had expertise in the education systems. It really appeared at first to be like trying to hug a cloud, because each little community has a different way of doing things, and they've got different ideas and values. So we wanted to try to get to a point where we could work towards helping to improve the basis—the basic education pieces—without alienating the group that we were trying to help by simply trying to go ahead with it.

So we do a number of things. We support a lot of the workshops and summer camp programs that they've got in the various first nations and aboriginal communities around the country. We've got quite an active program in supporting those workshops just so they get a feeling that science is fun, and math is fun, and subsequently, engineering can be fun as well.

The Alberta association is just in the process of really developing their outreach. They're working with industry. They have worked quite a bit with getting the gas and oil industry, which is predominant in northern Alberta, to help within the communities with that basic primary level education, so that the people will have the opportunity to move forward.

The ongoing program that I mentioned and that we're trying to help get spread across Canada to other universities is called NAEP. That's a bridging program they have, understanding that people coming from some of their local aboriginal communities may not have the math and science from their high schools. It's a program to work with them—and there's some financial support—to take two to three years to get through first-year engineering, so that they have the time to bring those skills up to speed, and then they just go into the regular stream with the rest of the engineers. They have been quite successful with that.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Thank you.

On that note, there was a labour market study done for engineering and technology by Engineers Canada, and it basically found that employers are overlooking recent graduates with little or no experience and are looking for engineers with five or more years of practical experience. I've heard that from people personally as well.

So what is the hand-up to them? You're telling me there's a shortage, but these people are being overlooked.

4:55 p.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Interim Chief Executive Officer, Engineers Canada

Marie Carter

Exactly. When we got the results of that, I thought, well, you know, you're not going to have any engineers with five to ten years of experience if you're not hiring the people out of university, because in five or ten years, they're the ones who will have the experience that you're looking for.

We've been making our best efforts, as have our constituent associations, to try to connect with industry to talk about mentoring programs, and to assist them with mentoring programs so that they can see that the new graduates who they hire will come up to speed more quickly.

There are a couple of provincial programs with some financial assistance for companies to hire new graduates, but those aren't well known or particularly well funded, so it continues to be a problem, and it continues to be an issue.

They're looking outside of Canada for the people with the five to ten years of experience rather than hiring our own grads. There is a gap.

This also happened in the 1990s because there was a recession in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I graduated in 1989, and I was in the last class where we really got jobs. The next class in 1990 didn't, because there was a recession. I'm a civil engineer. So we ended up five to ten years later, from the mid to late 1990s, not having enough engineers, those middle experience engineers, and again, they were relying on immigrant engineers.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Thank you for that response.

We'll now move to Mr. Butt.

March 14th, 2012 / 4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you very much for presenting today and for being here to answer our questions.

Engineering obviously covers a whole bunch of different areas: civil engineering, mechanical engineering, and on and on. Are there certain discipline areas where there is a greater labour shortage or a greater gap in workforce needs? You may have mentioned that in your presentation. Could you be a little bit more specific?

You mentioned, Ms. Carter, that you're a civil engineer. Is there a greater challenge for civil engineers than there is for chemical engineers versus others? Do we have certain areas we should be focusing on where we're having a bigger challenge?

4:55 p.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Interim Chief Executive Officer, Engineers Canada

Marie Carter

My understanding is that it really crosses all disciplines. However, it depends on what area of the country you're looking at. For example, in Alberta and in Newfoundland, where they have a lot of work going on in the gas and oil industry and where they have a lot of construction going on, they're looking for all kinds of engineers.

I had a call from Hatch, which is a great big international Canadian mining firm.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

They're in Mississauga.

4:55 p.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Interim Chief Executive Officer, Engineers Canada

Marie Carter

Yes, they are. They're all over the country.

I had a call from them yesterday. It's the second call I've had from this gentleman. I asked what types of engineers they are looking for, and he said they need expertise in oil and gas and mining. They also need the mechanical engineers and electrical engineers. And guess what? They're developing communities around these areas so quickly that they need all the types of engineers to support the infrastructure they need. That means the human side of the infrastructure as well as the hard side of the infrastructure.