A two-year diploma is all it takes to put you on the path to an exciting and fulfilling career as an engineering technologist.
Great pay, interesting and rewarding work and plenty of room for career growth—these are just a few reasons people choose this line of work. So what do engineering technologists do, anyway?
Working with a team of other professionals, including engineers, scientists and contractors, engineering technologists help solve technical problems using a hands-on approach. They could work in research and development, manufacturing, sales, construction, inspection or maintenance.
Plenty of variety
There are many different kinds of engineering technologists, each specializing in a particular field. Depending on their specialty, an engineering technologist may work in a manufacturing facility or an industrial plant, in a research or design facility, in an office or outdoors in the field.
“Once you have the education, there’s a lot of flexibility on the direction you can take your career,” says Pat Chatelain, a recruitment advisor with Syncrude in Fort McMurray. The company employs engineering technologists in a variety of roles, including civil, mechanical, instrumentation and chemical technologists.
Barry Cavanaugh, chief executive officer for the Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta (ASET), says the future is steady for engineering technologist graduates, even in a shifting economy.
“Graduates from technology programs are very employable,” says Cavanaugh. “The opportunities are endless.”
Each engineering technologist discipline has unique skills, job duties and work conditions. “It is so broad, but that’s what’s exciting. There’s a little bit of something for everybody,” says Terry Luhoway, a student employment advisor at NAIT, an Edmonton tech school which offers technologist programs.
Luhoway’s brother-in-law, for example, works as a materials engineering technologist—someone who tests, analyzes and inspects metals and other materials. His brother-in-law started his career working in northern Alberta, inspecting the inside of large, dark and cold oil pipelines. Today, he’s still a materials engineering technologist, but he works in an office overseeing quality control for pipeline production.
“From working in a lab, industrial plant or office to crawling down a pipeline on your hands and knees—there’s a big variety of career paths,” says Luhoway.
Depending on their field, some engineering technologists may:
- Work in a lab, conducting experiments or analyzing products and samples
- Design and test equipment prototypes, maps, industrial plants or production facilities
- Collect and test soil samples
- Supervise the recovery and transport of oil sands
Inspect, test or troubleshoot the equipment and machinery in industrial plants, such as oil sands refineries.
Do your research first
Anyone interested in a career as an engineering technologist should do some research first to see what field best suits their interests.
The Canadian Council of Technologists and Technicians has an overview of technical careers online at www.techfutures.cctt.ca. ASET (www.aset.ab.ca) offers a free CD-Rom which explores technology careers. The OCCinfo section of the Alberta Learning Information Service website (alis.alberta.ca/OCCInfo) has job descriptions for several technologist careers. Technical schools, such as NAIT in Edmonton (www.nait.ca) or SAIT in Calgary (www.sait.ca) are also excellent sources of career information.
In general, engineering technologists have an aptitude for math and science. They are often analytical and like to solve problems and troubleshoot.
Good oral and written communication skills are also important—technologists often have to communicate their ideas verbally and through reports.
“You’re part of the engineering team, so if you’re on site you’re working with other experts in a collaborative relationship. An engineering technologist might work with a professional engineer and then get out in the field to work with technicians and contractors,” says Cavanaugh.
Since many engineering technologists assist in design work, creativity is also a skill that employers look for.
Most engineering technologist fields require a minimum two-year technical or college diploma. NAIT and SAIT offer the majority of technologist programs in Alberta. Getting into these programs can be competitive, so taking pure math, physics and chemistry in high school, or upgrading, is recommended. See technical school websites for mature student entry requirements.
When they’re on the job, technologists may need safety certifications, such as CSTS, PST or WHMIS. Employers may provide this training. See www.woodbuffalo.net/trainSAFE.html for training information.
Even after they’ve obtained their diploma, engineering technologists need to continually upgrade their skills to keep on top of the latest changes in technology. Many employers provide ongoing professional development opportunities.
Engineering technologists often start their careers in junior roles. With experience, they can move into supervisory or management roles. Some will also start their own businesses.
Obtaining certification through ASET can also provide technologists with a competitive advantage and boost their pay. While it’s not required, many employers prefer to hire ASET certified technologists.
There are no typical hours for engineering technologists. Some may have regular office hours, while others who work in plants could work 12 hour shifts, day or night. It all depends on the employer and the job.
While activity has slowed in Fort McMurray and across Alberta, there is still a need for skilled workers. “If you’re good at what you do, you’ll definitely find work in this field,” says Keith Siva, human resource manager for Terracon Geotechnique, a Fort McMurray geosciences and engineering consulting firm. The company employs about 80 engineering technologists in Fort McMurray in the civil, instrumentation and geotechnical fields. Siva says Terracon still has regular job openings and recruits most of its technologists from Eastern Canada.
The Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook for 2008-2012 (http://employment.alberta.ca/BI/2656.htmll) forecasts an average 7.5 to eight per cent growth for different technical occupations in the Wood Buffalo-Cold Lake Region.
Online job search
A list of companies that employ technologists is available online at www.woodbuffalo.net/linksEMPL2NOC.html. ASET has a job board for members at www.aset.ab.ca.
Other online job boards include:
The information in this issue of Labour Market News was current as of the date shown. Employment outlook, salaries and educational programs may change. Please verify the information with additional sources before making career or business investment decisions. Contact us for more information.