Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Engineering study shows difficulty in recruiting qualified workers

May 2, 2011
By Manufacturing AUTOMATION

A recent labour market study produced by Engineers Canada and Randstad Engineering shows difficulty across the board in recruiting qualified industrial and manufacturing engineers. The study tracked current national labour supply and demand, and adds a projection from 2010 to 2018, providing engineering students, universities, employers and governments with insight into labour market forecasts.

For the manufacturing sector, the study shows that while growth is limited, “retirements will dominate labour requirements…and this will aggravate difficulties recruiting experienced engineers.”

These are a few conclusions drawn by this study:

1. It is clear that there is an asymmetry between the way that employers and engineers look at engineering labour and the way that standard economic statistics describe that market. Both employers and engineers ascribe a high degree of importance to general business experience, and to specialized, technical experience. Indeed, experience is so important in the engineering profession that the measurement of both the supply and the demand for engineers needs to be parsed in terms of experience categories.


2. It is clear from our analysis of specific engineering labour markets that many of these markets are characterized by a surplus of recent graduates, who have little or no experience, but a shortage of experienced engineers with five or more years of practical experience and the specialized, experience-based technical skills that employers require.

3. The difficulties that many employers experience in recruiting engineers with specific experience and skills has led to a sharp increase in the use of foreign-trained engineers brought into Canada by employers under the Temporary Foreign Worker program. Increasing the supply of domestic graduates, by itself, will not address employers’ skills needs. New graduates are not a substitute for experienced engineers with five to 10 years of experience and specialized technical skills.

4. The difficulty that many employers have in recruiting engineers with specialized skills and experience also has led to an increase in off-shoring. Our analysis suggests that skill shortages are at least as important as cost factors, if not more important, in driving the increase in off-shoring.

“The results of the labour market study will be of benefit to many groups – including high school students that will graduate in the next two years, as it identifies which disciplines and areas of the country will need engineers in the next seven years,” said Chantal Guay, Engineers Canada’s chief executive officer. “We are excited to be working with Randstad Engineering on this project as a valued and trusted advisor when it comes to workforce planning and strategy.”

“The study is very useful for human resources management and career planning,” said Mike Winterfield, president of Randstad Engineering. “Attracting and retaining the best workers will require employers to think about their place within the labour market and the unique selling points of their company. Knowing labour market needs and trends will help companies to better develop, understand and promote their selling points.”

The Engineering Labour Market Conditions 2009–2018 report is available online (PDF).

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