Canadian Consulting Engineer

Boomers make way for young professionals

December 1, 2010
By Bronwen Parsons

For decades baby boomers have dominated the workforce in most industries, including consulting engineering.

For decades baby boomers have dominated the workforce in most industries, including consulting engineering.

But now that we boomers are becoming the grey-haired ones, we are noticing — with something like shock — the contrast between us and those in their 20s and 30s. We’re realizing just how much energy young people have compared to us, and how much enthusiasm, not to mention tech-savvy skills, they bring to the team. Of course, firms will depend on having a stable of such young professionals in order to survive after the baby boomers retire.

The Association of Consulting Engineering Companies (ACEC) and the provincial associations of consulting engineers have lately been devoting a lot of energy to building their relationship with young professionals and engineering students.

This magazine also wants to engage more young professionals — both as readers and as contributors. Our print issues have generally been snailmailed out to consulting engineers who are at the managerial level. But now we’re in the internet age there is no limit to how widely we can distribute the digital magazine and our weekly electronic newsletter. This opens up exciting possibilities for reaching out to younger readers.

As a start held an online Young Professionals Forum this fall. Part I appears on page 26.

Several of the six participants in the forum confessed that when they started working in consulting they felt somewhat overwhelmed. They thought they had been handed too much responsibility sometimes. Nearly all of them felt they would have really benefited from having a mentor. They needed someone to show them the ropes, they said. But apparently — with notable exceptions — few of their baby boomer bosses made themselves available.

Young professionals do need nurturing and in this Canadian Consulting Engineer has a role. I have heard firm principals say that they don’t really want their staff receiving and reading the magazine online at work because it diverts them from doing billable work. That’s understandable in part.

But can be a valuable tool for helping young professionals find their feet in this business. The case studies and articles explain the engineering concepts in a quick and accessible way, and through them young professionals can find out what’s going on across the country. Our coverage is cross-disciplinary, so they can also learn about key advances in related fields, and there are articles about the practical issues of running a practice.

A magazine like this also helps to build up a sense of community, so in a more intangible way it helps consulting engineers to feel connected to their work and enriched by it. And via the website, can be an ongoing forum — a place where young people can float ideas and opinions.

As we launch this effort to reach out to younger professionals, we hope our regular readers will support us by encouraging them to subscribe, which can be easily done at


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