OSPE CEO raises concerns following the 2015 Ontario Economic Summit

This post was prepared by the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers’ Chief Executive Officer Sandro Perruzza.

On October 27, 2015 OSPE joined 200 delegates in Niagara-on-the Lake to participate in a three day discussion on Ontario’s economic future. Government, business and community leaders came together to determine how to best work together to strengthen and enable Ontario’s economy.

With Premier Kathleen Wynne, PC Leader Patrick Brown and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath on hand, as well as Ontario ministers and deputy ministers on a number of files, this must-attend event was an opportunity for the business community to influence policy development to stimulate the province’s economy. Discussion topics included:

  • The need to create a new type of regulation that drives innovation
  • How the sharing economy is disrupting traditional business practices
  • The changing nature of work, and how big data is creating new opportunities to connect with customers
  • Ontario’s cap-and-trade system, infrastructure investment, unlocking Ontario’s northern potential, the future of advanced manufacturing, Ontario electricity costs and how to attract foreign direct investment

Focus on engineering

In addition to highlighting the exponential rate of change in markets and the increasing need and reliance on entrepreneurs to innovate and create new technologies, the need for more flexible and permissible regulations and licencing mechanisms in today’s global environment was discussed. 

Specifically, the call for a “Global Engineering Licence” was used as an example, where there would be fewer obstacles for engineers from other jurisdictions having their credentials recognized in Canada, and for Canadian Engineers getting their licences recognized internationally.  Businesses have argued that many factors make restrictive licencing less important, as companies frequently export ‘knowledge’ worldwide.

Over three days, it was encouraging to hear a host of presenters talk about the need for business to engage engineers to leverage technology, spur innovation and research, get engaged in the STEM-knowledge economy and look at STEM as a service-based export market. This only means more employment opportunities for our engineering graduates.

However, there were many more comments about the ‘value’ of engineering in business that I believe should be of a concern to OSPE members.

  • Echoing the comments above regarding a proposed “Global Engineering License” instead of a local licensing regime
  • Comments surrounding the engineering profession being a commodity that can be ‘rented’ as needed
  • A general lack of understanding around what engineering is really all about – using software engineer and computer programmer in the same context. Beyond typical civil engineering, the masses are fully unaware of what engineers do!
  • There were also comments made that higher learning education systems are slow to adapt to the evolving needs of business. Although business schools are starting to adapt with new curriculum, the engineering schools are still far behind in meeting the needs of business, especially beyond the entry level jobs.

Engineers are still left out of the conversation

The most disturbing factor in the discussion regarding the role of engineers in Ontario’s economic growth is that by and large, the “Professional Engineer” is missing in the discussion with business leaders, especially in identifying factors that drive the economy.

None of the business leaders or speakers addressing the audience identified themselves as a Professional Engineer. Many were accountants, MBAs, bankers, lawyers, doctors and biologists. Besides OSPE, there were no other engineering organizations present. This is part of an alarming theme that OSPE has identified on a national level – that the engineering voice is largely absent when government gets together with industry to establish public policy.

What OSPE is doing about it

OSPE was established to ensure the engineering voice is heard and considered. In my many discussions with cabinet ministers, opposition leaders, deputy ministers and business leaders, OSPE has worked feverishly to ensure that our policy positions are understood and that our perspective is considered. This has resulted in the Government of Ontario inviting OSPE to present our budget recommendations to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, and our invitation to events like the Climate Action Summit and the Ontario Economic Summit.

However, with a membership base representing only 10% of Professional Engineers in the province of Ontario, this sends a dangerous message that the engineering profession just doesn’t care about their role in these discussions.

As a non-partisan, not-for-profit membership based organization, OSPE is here to provide solutions to the challenges that face Ontario. Challenges that effect our economy and our profession, such as climate change, energy, productivity, technology, research and innovation, and infrastructure investment, just to name a few.

OSPE will also continue to lead the charge on the national stage. With a new federal government which has established new departments of Innovation, Science and Economic Development: Environment and Climate Change; Infrastructure; Transportation; Natural Resources; and now a Minister of Science, it is more important than ever for the engineering profession to have a strong, vocal and sustainable advocacy organization representing it’s interests with all levels of government and with industry.

Stand up for your profession – join OSPE today.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Engineers must engage in the Business side of the profession to let Governments and Business know what Engineers do for the Economy and the products we produce. All too often, Engineering Associations concentrate on the traditional Engineering fields and forget to mention MINING, EXTRACTIVE METALLURGY, GEOPHYSICL ENGINEERING, etc. There should be more dialogue about these engineering professions and the importance they play in everyday life.

    1. As a metallurgist, I totally agree with you Louis. I am tired of the general public thinking that all engineers do is build bridges. If you can’t grow it, it must be mined! CIM’s “Mining in Society” and the PDAC’s “Mining Matters” are great initiatives that communicate the importance of the extractive sector to society. If you are a member of OSPE you could join our Ring of Fire working group. That project is not a mining project it will be a huge multidiscipline engineering project!

      Also, I recently learned from a colleague who volunteers his time on the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (the body that accredits Canadian Engineering Schools) that there are over 100 distinctly separate engineering programs they accredit. The schools are no longer the Universities but include Colleges too!

      Appreciate your comments. Perhaps you should consider running for the OSPE board if you are a P.Eng.?

  2. Further to this article, all engineers should read the views of health policy consultant Stephen Lewis, as quoted in the article by Richard Steinecke in his “Grey Areas” newsletter , regarding professional regulation in future. Changes to how professionals, including engineers, are practicing and being regulated are being driven by the modern economy and changes in technology. This is already having a big impact and it will have many more effects on our professional lives in future. The existing model of the independent, locally licensed professional is quickly becoming obsolete and we need to adapt or be left behind.

    1. http://www.sml-law.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Greyar180.pdf
      I believe this is the article Rob was referring to in his comment. Great article Rob, thanks!
      PEO, as the regulator, is evolving but perhaps not fast enough. We need leadership on Council, PEO members, to step forward and run for election or apply through the Ontario Public Appointment Secretariat whom understand governance, engineering and business to be part of this process of evolution vs. those who hold onto the past.
      OSPE also needs engineers to step up and run for election to their board as the Advocacy body of our profession to address the concerns that Sandro has so eloquently stated.

  3. Louis and Rob,
    You are both correct and that’s the reason OSPE exists… to provide the engineer’s perspective on economic related issues like cap and trade on climate change, electricity pricing models, economic benefits of infrastructure, and the need for investment for the ring of fire to grow, provide access and modenize northern communities.
    Unfortunately, the perception is that the Engineering community doesn’t care about this concept (given only 10%) of engineers join OSPE, and that they are happy to stay in the corner and silently do their engineering calculations. (Engineers are affectionately referred to as ‘human calculators’ by the business community, while economists are regarded as wise sages.

    We need the Engineering Community to read the OSPE reports, join OSPE, engage with our committees to continue putting forward strong papers on sound economic public policies founded on strong evidence supported by engineering analysis. The more members we have, the stronger the profession and the louder and more amplified engineering voice that exists in Ontario.

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