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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Engineers build on tradition of public service

By Stephanie Wei
Special to The Toronto Sun

Interested in building a better, more efficient world? Good at math and science? Enjoy puzzles and problem solving? If so, you might want to consider a career in engineering.

Now, more than at any time in the past, engineering touches every aspect of life in modern society. Broadly speaking, engineers are responsible for applying science to the real world. They build and create things to help people. They are involved in just about every industry -- from designing artificial limbs to creating high-performance fabrics to environmental clean up.

Engineering is a self-regulated profession in Canada. Every province and territory is regulated through a self-governing body established through provincial legislation. This unique Canadian system allows engineers the privilege of participating in the regulation of the profession. To become a professional engineer (identified by the initials P.Eng.), applicants need to meet the following requirements:
  • A four-year undergraduate degree from a school accredited by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board or the foreign equivalent.
  • Four years' experience practising engineering under the supervision of an engineer, at least one year of which must be in Canada.
  • Subscribe to a code of professional conduct and pass a professional practice exam.
    George Comrie, v-p., Professional Engineers Ontario

    Only individuals who have gone through this process can call themselves an engineer.

    George Comrie, P.Eng., is the v-p. of Professional Engineers Ontario, the provincial regulatory body. Comrie is also manager of development for rail/transit systems with Wardrop Engineering Inc., a Canadian consulting engineering firm.

    Wardrop is involved with traditional infrastructure projects as well as fields such as the design of sophisticated manufacturing machinery, building nuclear generators, and software engineering. Comrie's group designs and builds transit control systems.
    U of T engineering class

    "As an engineer, you make a valuable contribution to society," Comrie says. "You do things that really help, like improve medical and surgical treatments, and solve transportation problems. You provide solutions that meet real needs in business and society."

    Comrie stresses the importance of being part of a self-governing profession in which members take responsibility for the competence of their work.

    "Engineers can't just act in a way that benefits themselves if what they are doing is in the public interest."
    National Engineering Week: Events
    National Engineering Week takes place March 1 to 9, and aims to raise public awareness of engineering and technology. Students, parents and teachers interested in engineering can check out the following events:
    Canada FIRST Robotic Games
    Feb. 28 to March 1
    Humber College Athletic Centre
    High school student Robo Hockey competition.

    Drop-In K'NEX Construction
    Ontario Science Centre
    March 1 to 2 and March 8 to 9,
    11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

    Woodside Square -- Interactive
    March 1, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    David Rayburn, 416-299-7512/

    IBM's Women in Technology/E-Mentoring
    March 3 to 7
    Cory Philip, 905-316-1353

    Air-Cushion Conveyor Systems Lecture
    U of T Institute of Aerospace Studies
    March 4, 7 p.m.
    Phil Apperly, 905-790-2800 ext. 4613

    Engineering Innovations Forum:
    Can Canadians Lead in Technology?
    Ontario Science Centre
    March 6, 7 p.m.
    Andre Rudnicky, 416-392-3009

    University of Toronto Engineering Open House
    March 8 to 10
    For information on becoming a professional engineer in Ontario, visit the Professional Engineers Ontario Web site at

    Wendy Hui is an industrial engineering student at the University of Toronto. Currently in her Professional Experience Year, she is working as a logistics intern at Weston Bakeries. U of T's PEY program allows third-year students to take a 16-month work placement. Hui's advice for students considering an engineering career: Find out as much as possible before making a decision.

    "A lot of people get into it without knowing exactly what it is," Hui says. "Know what your options are: do the research, look at the school Web sites, contact engineering faculties. Talk to engineers. Most people are surprised at what you can do with an engineering degree."

    Marta Ecsedi, P.Eng., director of alumni affairs for the faculty of applied science and engineering at the U of T, tells prospective students that engineering may be the way to go if you're looking for a smaller faculty with a strong support network, where you can get to know your instructors and classmates. "If you have an affinity for math and science, engineering is a great program."

    Like many engineering programs, U of T requires marks in the mid-80 to high-90 percentile, and is placing increasing importance on leadership skills and extracurricular activities. Women currently make up 27% of the first-year undergraduate class at U of T.

    Ecsedi, who advises the dean on women's issues, sees a definite improvement in the workplace for female engineers. "In the last 25 years, engineering has become more open to women. There are still individuals who don't get it, but this will evolve in time."

    (Write Toronto-based freelancer Stephanie Wei at (

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