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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 engineering.

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

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Thank you for that response.

We'll now move to Mr. Butt.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative 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 Conservative 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.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Are we graduating enough engineers from universities in Canada, Canadian citizens, who plan to practise in Canada? Or are we having a challenge with...? I know this has been mentioned in other areas, such as medicine and others. A lot of the spaces in universities are being taken up by foreign students. They're obviously paying tuition to be there, but when they graduate, they're going back to their countries of origin to actually practise. Are we having any challenges like that? Is that just a fallacy? Do we have enough spots for engineering students in our universities across the country to fill the labour needs of the future once they graduate and are able to practise that profession? Or are we having a bit of a challenge around the number of spots and the number of graduates who are staying in Canada to practise?

5 p.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Interim Chief Executive Officer, Engineers Canada

Marie Carter

We're not having the same challenge as they're having in the medical field.

We collect those statistics. I don't have that particular percentage at hand at the moment. We can provide it to you. But certainly the majority of the graduates are homegrown Canadians who are going to be staying in Canada, potentially, unless they're—

5 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

The last question, Mr. Chairman, I have, and I want to follow up on what Ms. Hughes was getting at, was on this issue of graduating but then not having the work experience. The industry wants people who have at least five years or more of hands-on, direct work experience.

What more can we be doing at the federal level, if anything—and maybe we can't, I don't know—to bridge that gap so that we can get graduates in? We're always in this catch-22. We found this in the foreign credentialling study as well. You know, I can't get any Canadian work experience if you don't hire me to actually work in Canada. But the company wants Canadian workers.

Is there anything else we can be doing at the federal level to help work with your sector and others to get more companies to hire graduates so that they get that work experience and meet that work experience criterion most companies are looking for?

5 p.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Interim Chief Executive Officer, Engineers Canada

Marie Carter

I'm going to ask Alana to answer.

March 14th, 2012 / 5 p.m.

Alana Lavoie Manager, Government Relations, Engineers Canada

Thank you.

That's obviously a question that is very challenging. As you say, you have come across it already in other areas. There are a couple of things. In a perfect world, and I think we all wish it were a perfect world, there could perhaps be tax incentives for employers or other forms of non-financial benefits at the federal or provincial level to help them. That would be in an ideal, perfect world, where all conditions are perfect.

Another thing the federal government could do is help provinces and other organizations, professional associations, raise the profile of the professions to help people appreciate that they are valued. That goes for the medical profession, the legal professional, and engineering. Work with us to highlight for employers, for industry, those benefits in terms of productivity and the value to Canada in the long term.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Thank you.

Ms. Crowder.

5 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Thank you very much for coming before the committee today.

I have a couple of questions. You've indicated there are predicted shortages in a variety of the engineering fields. How do you gather that? How do you know? What do you do to estimate those shortages?

5 p.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Interim Chief Executive Officer, Engineers Canada

Marie Carter

We hire a firm. We've hired Prism, which is the name of the firm that does our studies for us.

5 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

What parameters do you put in place in terms of their doing the data gathering?

5 p.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Interim Chief Executive Officer, Engineers Canada

Marie Carter

We ask them to go out to small, medium, and large companies and we ask them for the following. What is their current situation? What are their projections based on their knowledge of their industry and how their particular company is growing? What is their projected need? How many people are they expecting to have retire over this period of time? So there's a need for replacing the retired people, for filling in. Those are the sorts of parameters. We've also done it by region, by type of industry, so that we have a better handle.

Our initial reason for carrying out the labour market study was so that when we have foreign-trained people asking us where the jobs are—because they're living in Toronto, but they're a marine engineer—we can actually tell them that in a specific area of the country they're looking for their type of engineering, and we ask them whether they have considered applying in that area. We can direct immigrants to the right places.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Have you analyzed the accuracy of the forecasting? Do you do a retro and see if the trends you're predicting actually bear out?

5:05 p.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Interim Chief Executive Officer, Engineers Canada

Marie Carter

Well, we've done updates on an annual basis since we first did the survey—

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

I'm sorry. When was the survey first undertaken?

5:05 p.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Interim Chief Executive Officer, Engineers Canada

Marie Carter

It was first completed in 2009; it was first published in 2009. So we've done two years of updating and going around and checking. We're getting very similar feedback, results on the next go-around, which to me is the validation of the first go-around.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Yes, that's good to know. It sounds like the questions the company you're working with are asking are actually giving you the information you need.

The previous witness talked about the fact that really what you need to do is develop scenarios. As people pointed out, nobody can predict the future, and what you need to do is develop scenarios based on a variety of factors. He indicated that it's important to have employers, economists, government planners, and educational systems at the table in terms of developing that plan to validate the shortages and to develop a plan.

Are you working with other organizations as well?

5:05 p.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Interim Chief Executive Officer, Engineers Canada

Marie Carter

We're part of a group called the Canadian network of accreditors and regulators. There's another word in there that I've missed. It's the CNNAR, which has most of the regulated professions in it. Aside from that, we work with our partners at the national level, from the engineering perspective, so we work with the Association of Canadian Engineering Companies. We work very closely with the deans of engineering. Most of the studies we do incorporate industry, education, and the profession, and then we reach out to see what other professions are doing.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Do I still have time, Mr. Chair?

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

You do. A minute and a bit.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

This is not directly related to engineering, although they do quote an aerospace engineer in this article. There was an article in The Toronto Star yesterday around a manufacturing jobless rebound. They said that at one time, a typical manufacturing worker on the shop floor had a high school education, but in the new advanced manufacturing sector, it could be an aerospace engineer with two master's degrees and an MBA. They also indicate that for many employers, what they are not looking at is where they could actually fill some of these jobs at a lower level, for example, with a one- or two-year community college program, where they could actually get the skills. I know there are engineering technicians and whatnot.

Are you working with employers to look at perhaps some other ways of addressing those skill shortages? Or are you looking at some of those jobs as entry-level jobs that they could then ladder into other more advanced degrees, with some support from the employer?

5:05 p.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Interim Chief Executive Officer, Engineers Canada

Marie Carter

We are not specifically as you've outlined it. However, we have a good relationship with the Canadian Council of Technicians and Technologists. We understand very clearly that there's an engineering team that is not just professional engineers but that includes technicians, technologists, and the whole team.

We're currently working on what we're calling a Canadian framework for licensure. In the end, the intent is to have the laddering piece available within that framework.