Demand for engineers and geoscientists in B.C.

A Labour Market Study estimates more than 31,000 job openings
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
by Janet Sinclair

Opportunity is often the catalyst for innovation and change. It has led men and women to cross oceans, climb mountains and explore the unknown for the promise of something more. For those looking to pursue careers in engineering and geoscience, opportunity awaits in British Columbia according to a recent Labour Market Study. Over the next 10 years, the Labour Market Study estimates that there will be more than 31,000 job openings for engineers, geoscientists, and technologists.

The study was conducted in partnership between the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC (APEGBC), the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies British Columbia, the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of British Columbia, and the Asia Pacific Gateway Skills Table with support from the Province of BC and the Government of Canada.

It produced comprehensive information, which will be valuable to today’s youths as well as industry professionals, on anticipated future labour needs, as well as gaps and trends within the engineering and geoscience sectors. It includes a 10 year regional outlook for 31 occupations across four regions of B.C. as well as the province as a whole.

Three economic scenarios were analyzed in the study: low investment, moderate investment and high investment to best forecast future labour-market trends. For engineers, the labour supply is not substantially affected by the scope of economic investment in B.C. The difference between the high and low economic investment scenarios is under one per cent of the total supply.

Study findings suggest that new entrants to the profession will generate 50 per cent of the new supply of workers needed to meet the anticipated demand in the province. It’s estimated that a quarter of workers currently in engineering will leave the labour market by the end of 2024. As current industry professionals advance in their careers to fill more senior level positions, there will be opportunities for new post-secondary graduates to join the workforce. The Southeastern B.C. and the Vancouver Island Coast regions show even greater need as the study anticipates that 1 in 4 individuals will leave the labour market in these regions.

In addition to the current positions which will become available, 11,555 of the 31,150 projected jobs will be new jobs. The actual number of new job openings will be affected by large-scale projects which are anticipated between 2015-2024, in addition to normal economic growth. It’s estimated that supply of educated professionals will be lagging demand by as much as 10 per cent between 2015-2020.

The most significant supply pressure will be felt in the Northern and South Eastern regions of the province. B.C. engineers are densely populated in the Lower Mainland, with only 10 per cent residing outside of that region. This anticipated demand will present an opportunity for professionals currently in the Lower Mainland area to take their talent to other regions of B.C.

While the study indicates clear opportunities for new graduates entering the fields of engineering and geoscience, there are also opportunities to be had by international professionals. It is anticipated that 41 per cent of the total new supply of engineers will need to come from professionals trained in other countries. Due to the global nature of the engineering and geoscience professions, labour supply management trends are shifting away from more traditional models of supply. It is expected that employers will continue to outsource work to other provinces or countries as a means of meeting demand for engineering and geoscience services for B.C. projects.

As regulations vary between jurisdictions, it is a requirement that professional services performed for B.C. projects be directly supervised by an individual licensed to work within B.C. who has a comprehensive understanding of discipline specific provincial regulations, codes and guidelines.

Findings from the study made it apparent that there are other additional areas which would provide a better understanding of labour supply and demand for these occupations, as well as employers’ needs and expectations. As such, the federal government has provided funding to launch the second phase of the labour market study for engineers, geoscientists, technologists and technicians to provide more data on these areas of interest.

As new engineers and geoscientists seize this opportunity and embark along the path of those before them, it is important they maintain the values which have made this path so promising and keep public safety as their guiding principle.

Janet Sinclair is chief operating officer of APEGBC. For more information on the Labour Market Study please visit

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