While COVID-19 and its ensuing upheaval occupied our minds for most of the year, at OSPE we saw small signs for optimism: engineering students, engineering graduates, and engineers coming together, and that pessimism hadn’t taken hold no matter how dire the world or the employment landscape seemed.
While there was a severe blow to the economy, we also saw that opportunities would emerge for people who had lost their jobs. Some had never before been given the chance to pause, take a breath, and re-evaluate: the traditional and established career pathways had been laid out long ago, and many had been on auto-pilot since graduating.
Combating COVID-19 has meant thinking about how we want to engineer our place in the future. As industry sectors struggle to survive, it has been brought into question whether we want to continue as before or if we will take the opportunity to rebuild the world as it should have been; incorporating diverse perspectives so that we all can thrive together through use and through opportunity. Now that the pandemic has unwittingly given us a chance for a fresh start, we must consider the state of the engineering profession in Ontario and the learnings from the past so that we can integrate into the new reality. Through the destruction of COVID-19 the way has been made clear, and as OSPE fulfills its mandate, it helps to ensure there is a vibrant ecosystem in existence so that engineering students, engineering graduates, and engineers can contribute. This means that we must assure our future by pressing on the issues of importance to the reputation of the engineering profession. In 2015, OSPE published a report titled Crisis In Ontario’s Engineering Labour Market which I would encourage you all to read. Page nine of this report highlights the potential reasons for historic underemployment in engineering, and as we re-jig our futures we look to this as a starting point for improvement. One of the biggest areas for investment, now and in the coming decades, appears to be in the green space — jobs that mitigate climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, develop and build infrastructure, create learning opportunities for re-skilling and up-skilling, bring back manufacturing, and foster technological advancement and innovation. How can the engineering community take advantage of this opportunity to embrace the future?
Innovation must be led by our members. We must harness our technical and soft skills to occupy positions of prominence in government, industry, and academia to remain relevant. While our technical skills are of immense use on the job, we must fully accept that in order to control our future, a focus on our emotional quotient — communication, teamwork, creative thinking, leadership, networking, and mental health awareness — is more important now that it has ever been before. For immediate success, we must utilize these skills, in conjunction with our technical know-how to demonstrate our capabilities as the leaders that Ontario needs to envision a complete future.
As COVID-19 and innovative technologies take turns disrupting the day, we must acknowledge that this can be a good time for entrepreneurship to thrive, for new ideas to take root, and for unorthodox thinking to be incorporated in all facets and eventually lead to progress. For OSPE, 2021 is a year of taking the bull by the horns and pushing forward. We have done our research, consulted the right groups, and have received feedback on our letters — now, with the help of our members, we will act. We must lay the seeds of the future today, whether it’s pushing for mandatory professional development so that we can demonstrate our value, engaging when the regulatory process falls short, or by simply taking advantage of the downtime to strategize on how to elevate the status of our profession in the eyes of the public — there has never been a greater opportunity.
On behalf of the board and staff at OSPE, we wish you a very happy, relaxing, and fun-filled holiday season. Stay safe and healthy with your families.
How can we describe this year? Challenging, complex, disastrous, and devastating are some of the first that come to mind.
As we’ve heard ad nauseum, COVID-19 upended our institutions, governments, businesses, and even the simple things we took for granted — how we get our groceries, dropping our kids off at school, spontaneous get togethers. It was a tough go, and tragedy hit most of us in some way: lost jobs, lost time, lost moments with loved ones. The way we would go forward was forever changed. Still, despite the catastrophic waves we faced, we saw many amazing things. Government and industry were forced to respond in nimble, specific ways as never before, job losses opened pathways to opportunities never before conceived, and many tried to make the most of it, becoming closer with their immediate family members, turning the volume down on the world outside and appreciating what was at their front door.
Upheaval always comes with a silver lining. We discovered resilience, flexibility, and strength that we never knew we had. Like most organizations, OSPE had to make major changes and all our in-person events were shifted online. While this was extremely disappointing, we also knew this was an incredible opportunity, as events suddenly became accessible to all of our members across Ontario: no flights or long car drives needed to attend one of our job fairs! From the comfort of their homes, many of our members found that they could access the full array of OSPE resources as they shifted priorities. On the downside, we had planned and prepared the launch of our Ontario Engineering Academy, a new way of thinking about career life-long learning. COVID-19 put a damper on that, and while we were excited to share some initiatives, we were unable to reach as far wide as we would have liked. And one of our favorite nights, the OPEA gala, where we deliver our awards, was cancelled.
We were overwhelmed with stories of engineers helping. We always say that an engineer’s most important skill is their critical thinking ability and we saw how they were able to adapt this analytical mind to retool PPE processes, hunker down on vaccine solutions, and develop resources like the contact tracing app that the government uses. These changes, brought on by the pandemic, will enhance the rest of our lives, post-pandemic.
Looking to 2021, we want to take this spirit of change and embrace it. We’ve learned this year that engineers can band together for the greater good. Our research has told us many issues still linger: underrepresented groups in engineering continue to suffer at disproportionate rates, right-touch legislation needs to be implemented for the good of the profession, mandatory development protects public safety, and the wage of engineers needs to rise to match those of similar professions. OSPE’s goal for the upcoming year is to lock-in on these issues and find tangible solutions for the engineering profession; solutions that improve lives, protect public safety, and enhance the profession in the eyes of the public.
We wish everyone the best for the holiday season as we eagerly await a vaccine. Keep safe, look out for one another, and keep coming back to OSPE for more updates on how we plan to work together to make the profession stronger.