A Message from your President
Through the first few months of COVID-19, the world relied on scientists and epidemiologists to predict and analyze the little data available to prioritize safety, resulting in a global economic slowdown. Despite engineers assisting businesses across industries, based on information that could be considered ambiguous, we were able to secure supply chains, ensure product quality, and modify existing processes to manufacture much needed medical supplies.
Four months into the global pandemic, new patterns of data and evidence has emerged, meaning our communities will have to innovate many more times in the months to come to manage the damage. OSPE is proud to note the proactive and positive reaction of the engineering profession—not only from the pivot in our province to PPE manufacturing but also to the breaking down of interdisciplinary barriers to come towards a common cause. The COVID-19 pandemic has showcased some of our greatest assets as a community; ones that reflect our core pillars of Lead, Care, and Unite.
As we shift from a global economic slowdown to a gradual and cautious reopening, we can begin to ask ourselves more questions. What exactly does the economy need to restart? Do we need to change our approach to adapt to a new marketplace? Are there now different methods that we can employ to innovate and solve problems while we investigate with the fresh perspectives that the virus has given us? What will be the impact on licensed professional engineering long-term?
OSPE has submitted recommendations to the Provincial and Federal governments highlighting the immediate and short-term actions we believe will position all engineers and engineering graduates for success as we reopen the economy. These recommendations were developed based on the advocacy work OSPE has done with our members and the variety of stakeholders within academia, industry, and other engineering associations. One clear impact is that the work from home transition has accelerated and highlighted the need for a steady ramp-up of digitalization, and we are pleased to see the government of Ontario commit to this endeavour. We will continue to find ways that will allow us to appreciate potential benefits, such as digitalization, while maintaining much needed human contact. We will be united on global scale with this research.
OSPE’s advocacy goals will now shift to long-term, strategic solutions, with the aim to target the specific damage caused by COVID-19. We will make evidence-based, technological recommendations that align with the legacy needs of the engineering community. We know, through generic data and anecdotes, that job losses have occurred in engineering, and now with the help of our members, we can begin to examine which specific industries were affected, and how best to equip them for the future. For example, we must understand that job losses in the electrical engineering industry will need different considerations from the job losses affecting chemical engineering, and it’s possible that some industries, such as manufacturing, will have found new streams for innovation during the crisis.
This is also where the need for re-skilling and up-skilling of engineers becomes vital not only to our survival as a profession but also to ensure the longevity of engineering careers. The Ontario Engineering Academy (OEA) is an avenue through which we can enhance our skill sets to remain relevant while understanding the emerging marketplace so that we are positioned for the jobs of tomorrow. The diverse, skilled talent base that emerges will go a long way in cementing our position as skilled, ethical innovators who strive to protect the public through the profession regardless of the circumstances.
This pandemic has had a social impact on engineers’ work-life balance and mental health. Given that there could be a second wave of increased COVID-19 cases this Fall, as engineers we will Lead, Care, and Unite, to ensure protections exist while we continue to navigate any uncertainty.
A Message from your CEO
The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was fraught with unpredictability, confusion and fear. As layoffs spread across sectors and the economy threatened to collapse, many industries moved purely into damage control mode, focusing solely on efforts to minimize the effects of the virus. At OSPE, we were no different. As we swiftly changed our habits to work from home, so to, did our advocacy priorities shift to counteract the instability brought on by the global pandemic—the first of its kind in the modern, digital age. It became vital to devote our resources to the pandemic as it forever altered our habits, procedures, and processes, and to try to gain an understanding of how we could help in the immediate short-term.
As we’ve communicated to our members, this resulted in many short-term measures aimed at “stopping the bleeding.” We created our resource page, shifted the focus of our social media channels, and quickly brought together our COVID-19 Economic Recovery Group, whose purpose was to put together recommendations by engineers aimed at carrying the profession through the recovery stages. The Economic Recovery Group’s efforts were a response to newly enacted government policies, which, in turn, were a response to the fluctuating pandemic. Keeping pace with the rapidly changing virus was our number one priority. As there was a lack of COVID-19 data available, we utilized historical sources, anecdotal evidence, and forecasting to try and understand how best to work alongside this virus.
We thank our members for this vital work of sharing their stories while undergoing their own unique hardships. As we’ve heard from many industry partners who pivoted to produce PPE for our healthcare professionals, so to did we hear from parents who had to make shifts in child care, new graduates with altered summer plans, and established employees learning new technology to work from home. Our OSPE pillars of Lead, Care, and Unite, have been exemplified by the engineering community who used their technical knowledge to produce apps to connect communities, and discovered new, innovative ways to localize supply chains and produce testing facilities.
Our next steps are simple. As the industry creates its “new normal” and things, slowly, begin to re-open, we believe this is the time to rely on engineering principals of discovering solid, evidence-based solutions to our problems. We will be increasing our efforts to research the true impact of the pandemic and discover, not just through anecdote, but through research, which groups were most impacted by the pandemic and the best way we can devise recommendations to help them going forward. Our newly launched OEA is providing a robust, ramped up Virtual Learning platform that will allow engineers to continue on their path of life-long education with safety, flexibility, and cost in mind.
No engineer will be left behind. The statistics prove that a single engineering job produces a number of corollary jobs. The social impact of engineers is undeniable, and the status of the province relies on the health of the engineering industry. We continue our ongoing conversations with government, industry, and academia to push for the economic recovery of engineers, knowing full well that it will affect the entire province. As we stand on the cusp of a digital transformation, sped up by the spread of COVID-19, we will position engineers as thought leaders and innovators, tasked specifically with guiding our society into this new era.