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More Indigenous engineers needed for basic representation in sector

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Less than 1% of Canada’s engineers identify as Indigenous, according to a new report by Engineers Canada, which estimates the sector needs an additional 5,620 Indigenous engineers for a basic level of representation.

Engineers Canada partnered with Big River Analytics to better understand Indigenous representation in engineering for the new report. When considering individuals in their main working years with an education at the bachelor level or above, the percentage of all engineers that identify as Indigenous is 0.7% or approximately 1,685 Indigenous engineers in the labour force.

Researchers found that just 60% of Indigenous engineers have a university education at a bachelor level or above — which is generally required to be certified by engineering regulators — compared to 82% of non-Indigenous engineers. Indigenous representation is particularly low in engineering, compared to science, technology, and math occupations (0.9%) and the rest of the labour force (1.8%), the report found.

The percentage of the overall labour force in their main working years that identify as Indigenous is 3.1%, the report states. By this metric, the report suggests the sector needs 5,620 additional Indigenous people for the engineering profession to include a truly representative number.

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Nearly double that number would be the Indigenous representation of the total Canadian population as a benchmark.

Provinces with a higher Indigenous population also have a higher count of Indigenous engineers, the report found. Representation among Indigenous engineers is highest in Ontario, Alberta, Quebec and British Columbia.

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Percentage of Indigenous engineers and Indigenous labour force, aged 25 to 64, provinces and territories, 2016.
Source: Statistics Canada, 2016 Census of Population.

Engineers Canada has introduced a series of measures to further Indigenous representation in the sector, including the creation of datasets, as well as support, and frameworks for engagement.

“To achieve these goals, Engineers Canada receives guidance from its Indigenous Advisory Committee, and works in collaboration with the engineering regulators, and post-secondary engineering programs to share knowledge on Indigenizing engineering education and occupational environments,” the report states.

Socioeconomic gaps persist between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous population. For example, 52% of the Indigenous population are employed compared to 60% of the non-Indigenous population and the Indigenous unemployment rate (15%) is twice as high as the non-Indigenous unemployment rate (7%).

Access to education was one of the top three barriers to employment mentioned by respondents to the 2017 Aboriginal Peoples Survey, a finding that is supported by the 2016 Census, which shows that 21% of the Indigenous workforce has less than a high school education compared to 10% of the non-Indigenous workforce, and 11.6% of the Indigenous workforce has a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 28% of the non-Indigenous workforce.

The report also poses a series of questions that may require further research, such as whether a lack of Indigenous representation in senior engineering positions has a significant impact on success for prospective Indigenous engineers.

In 2016, Engineers Canada published the report Indigenous Peoples’ Access to Post-Secondary Engineering Programs: A Review of Practice Consensus.

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