By Chris Lyon, P.Eng.
Mr. Lyon is Manager of the Canadian Engineering Human Resources Board.
The Canadian Council of Professional Engineers (CCPE), through the Canadian Engineering Human Resources Board (CEHRB), has released a new publication "Canadian Engineers for Tomorrow: Trends in Engineering Enrolment and Degrees Awarded 1992 to 1996". This analysis of Canadian undergraduate and graduate programs in accredited engineering programs is designed to advise educators, policy makers and prospective engineers on trends and opportunities in engineering. The report tracks educational trends nationally and provincially as well as by gender and citizenship status. It is augmented by CEHRB findings on industry human resources needs, and a discussion of strengths and weaknesses within industrial sectors.
The report is the culmination of a year-long analysis by the CEHRB. The report, available in both official languages, was prepared from data collected from Canadian universities offering accredited engineering programs.
Mandated with the responsibility to undertake human resources strategic planning for engineers across Canada, the CEHRB annually surveys Canadian universities to determine the number of students enrolled in engineering programs as well as those graduating over the calendar year. By tracking student participation rates, the CEHRB can determine trends in the supply of potential engineers to a broad range of Canadian industries. The profession is interested in tracking the demographics of engineering students including the number of women, geographic distribution of entrants, and the number of students enrolled or graduating in engineering disciplines.
The analysis identified a number of important trends in the student engineering population:
Enrolment in undergraduate programs in 1996 increased two per cent over 1995 levels, in contrast to a declining enrolment rate from 1993 to 1995. This is equivalent to the addition of 818 persons to 1995 enrolment totals.
This is consistent with annual increases observed during the years 1991 to 1995. Undergraduate degrees awarded in 1996 increased 3.9 per cent over 1995.
The decision to go to graduate school seems to be significantly affected by current economic conditions. A weak labor market leads to increased graduate school enrolment. In studies on participation in engineering graduate programs, the level of student enrolment and ability to complete degree programs is relatively elastic. Since graduate student participation is impacted by economic conditions and the demand for engineers from select disciplines, the higher enrolment is likely attributable to current growth trends in Canada’s economy.
Graduate studies enrolment and degrees awarded information for 1996 found:
Enrolment in graduate studies in engineering increased 0.5 per cent over 1995 levels, reversing enrolment rate declines (average minus four per cent per annum) recorded from 1991 through 1996.
Masters and doctoral degrees awarded in 1996 decreased marginally, even though the rate of growth in graduate degrees awarded from 1991 to 1996 averaged 4.2 per cent per year.
Participation of Women
Over the past 20 years, the number of women participating in engineering undergraduate degree programs in Canada has risen consistently, in contrast to enrolment patterns for their male counterparts which have remained stable since the early 1990s.
In summarizing the data for women in engineering programs, the enrolment report concludes:
Women comprised 19 per cent of 1996 undergraduate enrolment, a 2.5 per cent increase over 1995 enrolment levels.
Undergraduate degrees awarded to women have increased, by an average rate of 11.2 per cent per year from 1991 to 1996.
Women’s participation in graduate studies in engineering increased to 17.7 per cent of total graduate enrolment, an average increase of 11.2 per cent per annum from 1991 to 1996. Graduate degrees awarded to women constituted 18.1 per cent of total degrees awarded, while 1996 marked a 3 per cent increase in degrees awarded to women over 1995 levels. The annual average growth rate for women’s degrees awarded from 1991 through 1996 was 12 per cent each year.
Enrolment & Degrees By Discipline
Based on research undertaken on the National Graduate Surveys database (1982 through 1995), significant changes in engineering undergraduate and graduate enrolment occurred due to shifting economic forces and related employment opportunities. To demonstrate changes which have occurred in the recent past, enrolment trends from 1991 to 1996 were charted by discipline.
Noteworthy changes in engineering enrolment included:
acute and linear reductions in the students enrolled in civil engineering programs; and,
significant increases across all disciplines which support various high technology fields (electrical, computer, bio-systems, etc.).
Meeting Canada’s Technological Needs
Enrolment and degrees awarded for Canadian engineering programs in 1996 demonstrated positive change in meeting the technological needs of Canada, as well as other nations around the world which rely upon Canadian trained engineers for the research, development and deployment of technologically advanced materials, products, processes and services.
Notable gains are:
Overall undergraduate enrolment is up two per cent, recovering from a three-year reduction in participants.
The number of undergraduate degrees awarded has increased three per cent over 1995.
There is strong and continuing growth in women’s participation in engineering enrolment and degrees awarded to women.
There are significant shifts in enrolment patterns between disciplines, with notable gains in emerging programs.
To obtain a copy of "Canadian Engineers for Tomorrow: Trends in Engineering Enrolment and Degrees Awarded 1992 to 1996" contact Chris Lyon at CCPE, 116 Albert St., Suite 401, Ottawa, ON K1P 5G3, phone 613-232-2474 or email@example.com