The demand for professionals to work in science, technology, engineering, and maths — also known as STEM subjects — is constant, and a recent report by the CD Howe Institute states that the country is facing a shortage of people in these sectors. The rapid digitalization across the economy as well as an aging population, with professionals retiring and leaving skills gaps as a result, are among the causes of this shortage. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for STEM specialists as well as workers with digital skills and, consequently, has contributed to shortages across a range of jobs. Therefore, embarking on a career in any of these disciplines should provide access to a ready supply of jobs and industries, resulting in potentially positive long-term prospects for personal and professional growth.
Governments and businesses are actively seeking ways to encourage students to be part of the sector to meet current and long-term demands. The Government of Canada states that as more companies grow, innovate, and modernize, the demand for workers who can work in these roles will increase, and thus the need for a workforce that can meet the real challenges of the future. Therefore, the Government of Canada has developed STEM initiatives to encourage and help young people to get involved in the field. Engaging youngsters in topics that connect science, technology, engineering, and maths to the real world motivates them to be creative, have confidence in learning problem-solving skills, and encourage critical thinking. It will also equip them with the right skills to use technology, communicate, and manage information. This should encourage new generations to consider taking up a STEM-related job as a career.
Careers in one of the STEM fields can be very satisfying for those drawn to finding innovative solutions to problems and who enjoy research and working toward maximizing an organization’s productivity. In fields such as medicine, robotics, design, and technology, workers evolve and develop new structures and processes that enable people to live more productively and comfortably. For those involved in these careers, the knowledge that what they do has a positive impact on society and the world around them can lead to a real sense of satisfaction in their day-to-day working life.
Within the STEM disciplines there are many career paths. Science, for instance, includes natural science, earth science, clinical science, chemical science, and biological science. Professions could involve creating creative ways to manage the weather and deal with climate change, for instance, or developing remedies for diseases.
In the technology field, people implement and develop mechanical innovations to help carry out tasks efficiently. These include finding ways to decrease waste or maximizing the utilization of limited resources. Specializations within the field of technology include computer science, web development, and network security.
Engineering is another STEM discipline, and those employed in this profession are trained to solve problems using science, technology, and maths. Engineers take scientific discoveries and implement them in the workplace by designing ways to make them work. They build machines, vehicles, and tunnels, for instance. There are specific disciplines within engineering such as chemical, civil, mechanical, and electrical as well as interdisciplinary fields including software, bio-systems, and aerospace.
Maths is used a great deal within other STEM fields to develop operational systems designed to improve results in many different ways. Professionals using maths work to understand how algorithms and systems work and will use either or both branches of the discipline — pure mathematics, which focuses on concepts, and applied maths, which is applied in various areas.
The benefits of professional development both for employees and employers are many. Whatever the industry, progression and improvement, with or without managerial help, are key to longevity and workplace satisfaction.
Refreshing industry knowledge by attending seminars and network events, going on a relevant course, or gaining a new qualification, among others, help in the development of new skills that could enhance the work being done in a current role, or give a candidate a competitive edge when they are looking to progress or for another job.
Making visible steps to understand the industry, labor market information, changing regulations, and innovative best practices by engaging in continuing education not only helps an individual do a job well but also shows their employers they have the dedication to, and ongoing engagement with, their career.
Meeting other professionals outside one’s current workplace or regular contacts can be a useful way of being exposed to new ideas and opportunities, whether it’s to energize whatever they are currently doing or give them ideas for their future within their career trajectory. Attending workshops, events, webinars, and online connections are all beneficial.
Joining professional and trade organizations is also a good idea. They offer development and helpful connections to others within the field and will enhance an individual’s profile. Having an industry association illustrates commitment to the profession and active participation in its advancement.
Another way to progress, either personally or professionally, is to undertake further education to re-energize and refresh workplace dedication and creativity.
Ways to assess in which direction personal development could go include talking to managers and employers to identify potential skills gaps and ways to improve one’s knowledge. These include shadowing more experienced colleagues, taking on more challenging tasks, attending external conferences, skill-sharing with another department, and training at career-relevant organizations.
It’s also a good idea to create a follow-up plan once some of these ideas have been put in place to identify how best to utilize them and what to do next.
Technology careers and development
According to the International Trade Administration, Canada has a very strong technology sector; in 2022, there were 43,200 companies registered in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector. Most of these are in software and computer services, and many are small companies employing fewer than 10 people. There are growing opportunities within cyber security, including identity system defense, vendor consolidation, and cybersecurity mesh. Cloud services are also doing well following the boost in digitalization caused, in part, by the pandemic. Artificial intelligence will continue to be an important sector, and the Canadian government is investing considerably in the commercialization of research in this area. Robotics is also a growing sector, with a big shift toward automation over the past few years, with AR/VR technology being used in many sectors, including business, to create a better shopping experience, offer solutions to remote workers, and improve education and training tools.
Roles in technology include business analysts, software developers, full-stack developers, computer scientists, web designers, information security analysts, and data analysts. Most positions in the sector require at least a bachelor’s degree in subjects such as technology, computer science, engineering, or a related field that will help candidates develop technical skills and industry knowledge. There are specialties within these that people can focus on, such as front-end development, network administration, and software analysis and development.
Internships are a good way for students to gain relevant experience and provide a solid foundation for future career growth. Some positions require a master’s degree, which will also promote professional progress in the future. Degrees to consider are computer science, cybersecurity, big data and analytics. Another way to develop skills and experience is to find freelancing opportunities, which will not only earn money but also cultivate contacts in a variety of companies and departments.
To succeed within the industry, professionals need to develop not only their technical knowledge but also their soft skills, such as effective communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Other ways to develop include volunteering for small businesses in the early stages of a career or helping a charity develop something as simple as a form. This also helps to build networks and will enhance any CV. Earning additional certification is another way to improve and showcase technical knowledge and will set candidates apart. Extra studies also provide specific skillsets that help with career advancement.
Science careers and development
Working in science encompasses many roles and specialties, but in essence scientists study information related to the physical or natural world, focusing on medicine, technology, information, or animals, for example. They will aim to advance knowledge within their area of expertise by asking questions and creating ways to get answers.
Essential steps to take when first embarking on a career in science include completing a bachelor’s degree. During studies, it’s a good idea to volunteer for research or assistant positions during vacations as well as taking up an internship to gain hands-on experience in the right specialization. Following graduation, gaining work experience is an important way to acquire the right experience as well as contacts in order to progress.
There will also be opportunities to gain further academic qualifications, either directly after the first degree or after having gained some real-world experience, and for many employers this is either essential or will show a degree of commitment that is highly regarded.
Skills required within this sector that can be gained by study, as well as experience, include attention to detail, critical thinking and analytical skills, communication skills, and interpersonal and teamwork skills.
Mathematics careers and development
While the word mathematics may conjure up the academic endeavor, there are also many opportunities for those who study the subject to work in a variety of jobs and sectors. Individuals with both bachelor’s and further degrees work in small and large businesses, educational establishments, and life insurance companies as actuaries, for example.
Other jobs include cryptographers — who write, solve, and decipher encryption systems in sectors such as law enforcement — market analysts, researchers, and lawyers.
With the right qualifications, there are also opportunities to become an industrial engineer, an information systems consultant, an aerospace mathematician at a space center, or a computer systems specialist.
Each area of mathematics has its own applications in different careers. For example, algebra is very important for computer science and cryptology, whereas calculus is used in areas such as chemistry, biology, physics, and engineering.
Professional development depends on the sector, but taking responsibility for it, as well as seeking support from employers, is vital in an ever developing and changing discipline.
Engineering careers and development
According to Engineers Canada, to practice engineering and use the title or variation of it, people must be licensed by the engineering regulator for the province or territory where the title is being used. The aim of the regulation is to ensure that only licensed engineers, who are held to high ethical and professional standards, work within this field to minimize the risk to public safety. An activity is regarded as being within engineering if it involves a combination of intellectual activities, such as planning, designing, composing, evaluating, advising, reporting, directing, supervising, or managing, as well as the application of engineering principles and safeguarding societal interests, including life, health, and economic interests.
There are a variety of jobs that qualified engineers can do, such as pipeline engineer for the oil and gas industries, who plans and designs pipelines in order to transport fuel, undertakes quality control, and troubleshoots problems. Electrical engineering is a broad field that usually involves the design and development of electrical systems and equipment, but electrical engineers can also work in telecommunications, dealing with the connections between satellites, for instance, to improve communication.
Data engineers collect and analyze sets of information and can also be experts in software engineering, designing systems for the collection of data. Civil engineers are generally involved in urban infrastructure, such as buildings and bridges as well as dams, tunnels, and airports.
Systems engineers tend to work across many disciplines, ensuring that systems work and dealing with teams, taking on various roles to help deliver products, processes, or solutions. Biomedical engineers are involved in researching and developing devices and software within the health industry, such as improving or designing prosthetic limbs or diagnostic machines, for example. Mining engineers design or improve mines for the extraction of resources and sometimes specialize in a specific mineral type or work on the safety of the mines themselves.
The gateway to engineering at the beginning of a career is taking a four-year accredited program at a university. Licensure requirements include academic study, work experience, good character, and ethics. Canadian university programs are accredited, and graduates need to pass the Professional Practice Examination, which affirms knowledge of ethics and Canadian law in its relationship to engineering, after getting the necessary work experience and providing references. Provinces or territories issue the licenses but transferring to other regions of Canada is generally straightforward.
Professional development is vital to engineers as they are required to keep up with trends and industry developments in order to maintain their licenses. Some employers provide workplace development, but whether they do or not, it’s a good idea to get involved in webinars and white papers, magazines, and websites, whether they are industry-specific or about general trends.
There are also master’s degrees geared toward engineering and STEM specialties. Professionals can study University of Ottawa’s engineering management master’s degree online, which is industry-oriented and combines engineering and management skills so candidates get the skills and knowledge needed in a fast-developing and innovative workplace. uOttawa’s course has areas of focus that include project and people management, analytics-driven decision-making, operations management, leadership, and product innovation management.
Employment prospects within STEM fields
For anyone working in a sector that employs engineers, scientists, math specialists, and technology experts, there are good career prospects both now and in the future. As more senior-level professionals in the field are retiring, there are opportunities for others to rise and make a difference. There is a high demand for STEM jobs as new technologies emerge, discoveries are made, and the world changes and evolves.
A report by the Council of Canadian Academies states that STEM skills are vital as countries around the world aim to maximize their economic competitiveness and productivity. With major advances in information and communication technologies, genomics, and nanotechnology, businesses are changing, and STEM skills are necessary for innovation, productivity, and growth. Alongside this, skills such as creativity, leadership, adaptability, and entrepreneurship maximize the impact of engineering, science, technological, and mathematical skills, meaning personal development is also crucial for a successful career in STEM.
Leave a Reply