Innovation and jobs STEM from science and engineering

Photo of Tom Corr October 16, 2012 by Tom Corr

Science, technology, engineering and math students.

Are any of us surprised to learn that engineering graduates have an even better chance of landing a job than a humanities or social sciences grad? According to the latest employment survey commissioned by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, within six months of graduating no fewer than 95 per cent of engineering grads were employed.  

At a time when jobs are hard won, you would expect those kinds of odds to speak loudly to young people contemplating a career choice. For several years now, we’ve been hearing about serious skill shortages in many areas in Canada. A survey recently released by Randstad Canada, a national leader in staffing, recruitment and HR services, says some of Canada’s major cities are finding it hard to find engineering talent. And Canada is not alone, A report released at the beginning of the month in the UK by The Royal Academy of Engineering, Jobs and Growth: the Importance of Engineering Skills to the UK Economy, calculates that the UK needs to graduate at least 10,000 more graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) than it currently does just to meet current industry needs and more if it wants to spur economic growth.    

Despite the high opportunity represented by this employment field, students continue to rebuff what are known as STEM-related professions as a career track. A report released this summer called Competing in the 21st Century Skills Race notes a disconcerting lack of interest by young people in science-related careers and the serious toll this could take on Canada’s global economic competitiveness. 

Those of us in the innovation business have our own concerns about this apparent gravitation away from the STEM fields. Ontario and Canada’s future prosperity depends on our success in making the transition from an industry-based economy to a knowledge-based economy fuelled by innovation. And the lion’s share of innovative companies has its roots in science and technology-based research. We need to get to the bottom of what is deterring young people from entering science- and math-related fields. We also have to  recognize the importance of building strength in these areas, especially at a time when countries like China are making science education a top priority. And we need to create conditions for entrepreneurship to flourish and ensure that our brilliant young scientists and engineers are equipped with the business know how required to advance their discoveries through to commercial development. 

This is why Ontario Centres of Excellence is so heavily invested in offering programs like Connections and the Experiential Learning Program, designed to help students acquire the business skills and real-world experience they need to grow as innovators and leaders in business. Over the past year, we have seen students across Ontario flocking to these programs, eager to combine their technical skills with the business skills they need to turn their ideas into market-ready products — and jobs. Today’s students are increasingly savvy about the need to take matters into their own hands and create their own pathways to success. It’s our job to guide them toward existing opportunities and provide the skills support and mentoring they will need to take full advantage of the possibilities.

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