It’s cold today in Calgary. This morning it was minus 29°C in Calgary and minus 26°C in Inuvik. It’s cold all over. Not a bad day to stay indoors and write my last RECORDER column.
Ms Kim Farrell, P.Eng, outgoing APEGGA President, recently spoke at a Calgary luncheon. She said that most Alberta citizens do not know what a GeoScientist or Engineer does for a living. She feels that in order for the province to grow and for practitioners of EG&G to gain the most benefit, we must recruit great people into our profession. She challenged all APEGGA members to talk about our profession with people outside our business in order to recruit the most talented people.
Ms Farrell said that in Alberta the Engineering profession used to have an aging problem. Most Engineers were getting old and about to retire. But, the Alberta Engineering profession has side-stepped the aging problem by importing Engineers from outside Alberta and even from outside Canada. Because of immigration into Alberta, there now seems to be enough young engineers to replace those that are aging. Gender is now the major challenge for Alberta’s Engineering professions. There are not enough young female engineers in Alberta, and it looks like in the future the profession will continue to be practiced by a mostly male population.
The reason the Engineering profession needs an equal mix of both genders is that exactly 50% of the brightest and hardest working people are women. It’s not about being a Good Samaritan and ensuring women have equal opportunity. It’s about how skilled we are. If Engineering continues to be an 80% male profession with 20% (or less) women, then it will draw from only 70% (or less) of the population. We will miss out on 30% of the smartest people. I’m paraphrasing Kim, but her point was valid. If we want the best future for ourselves and our province, then we need to attract the best people into our profession.
Ms. Farrell said the demographic trends amongst Geoscientists are different than Engineers. GeoScientists are aging rapidly, but we do not have a big gender problem. Using APEGGA’s member database she found that while old GeoScientists are mostly men, at least 40% of young (34 and younger) GeoScientists registered with APEGGA are women. She thought that in the future Alberta’s GeoScientists will be a mostly equal mix of men and women. So, amongst GeoScientists, there is no gender problem. But, there is a big age problem. If I recall correctly, she showed that more than 50% of APEGGA’s GeoScientists are age 50 or older. Her numbers seemed to jive with what I think I know about the age of CSEG members. I think most of us are 50 or older. This means that when the old folks like me retire, there won’t be enough smart young Albertans available to replace us. Just like with the Engineers, we will have to import GeoScientists from outside Alberta.
That brings me back to President Farrell’s challenge. She said most new APEGGA members are children of EG&G practitioners. This means that “insiders” know that GeoScience and Engineering careers are exciting and rewarding, but most Alberta citizens do not know about the great EG&G careers that are available. Once again, if we want the best for our profession (and the best for ourselves!), then we have to attract the best people. It’s in our hands, we need to talk to people outside our profession and be proud to tell them what we do for a living.
Given the cold weather we are having now, it is hard to believe that in a month I’ll be busy with outdoor soccer practices. After nearly a year, this is the last of my President’s columns. I hope to see many old friends at the CSEG luncheon on March 14th when I hand Larry Herd the CSEG’s President’s gavel.
It’s been a great honour to have served the CSEG members for the past year. Thank you.