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.