Canadian Consulting Engineer

The “low-balling” battle

CHAIR'S REPORTFor a couple of weeks in late November and early December I had the pleasure of travelling across Canada to meet with member firms and member associations of ACEC. I met with some 64 mem...

January 1, 2001  By Dave Chalcroft

CHAIR’S REPORT

For a couple of weeks in late November and early December I had the pleasure of travelling across Canada to meet with member firms and member associations of ACEC. I met with some 64 member firms representing roughly 50% of our industry’s employment base. At each meeting I learned of the issues of interest and concern to our industry.

I heard a remarkably common theme when it came to the issue of industry remuneration — that is, if industry remuneration levels do not improve substantially, the ability of our firms to attract and retain competent staff will erode, and with it will erode the quality of our services; clients will suffer and project cost overruns will climb. Ultimately the general public will pay the price.

Salaries for consulting engineers across Canada are generally 10% to 15% below the median engineering salaries for all industries, as documented by salary surveys conducted by the provincial professional engineering associations. The principal cause, according to many I heard from, is the practice of “low-balling,” which remains a common occurrence, even in a market cycle as robust as the one many firms are currently enjoying. It’s no wonder we’ve seen a 30% drop in the number of graduating civil engineers across Canada since 1995!

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It doesn’t have to be this way. At one stop, I heard the story of two project managers from a major firm in our industry who crossed the street and joined a management consulting firm doing the same sort of work and instantly saw their charge out rate double.

If I understood my fellow consulting engineers across Canada rightly, we have a steep hill to climb. This is the challenge on which ACEC is embarking through our Strategic Plan that focuses on improving the industry’s image among opinion-makers and decision-makers on the one hand, and by helping to improve the business practices of the industry on the other.

Make no mistake about it. If industry remuneration is to improve significantly, as I believe it must for consulting engineers to remain value-added contributors to society and to the Canadian economy, we cannot wait for others to intervene. It’s up to us and the time is now. Please contact ACEC to find out how you can join directly in our campaign.

DAVE CHALCROFT, P.ENG., CHAIR

ASSOCIATION OF CONSULTING ENGINEERS OF CANADA

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Engineering


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