President’s Notebook


A Few Tips for Succeeding in a Tricky Economy BY NIMA DORJEE, P.ENG., FEC, FGC (HON.) APEGA President

prominently featured in this edition of The PEG . This document, a.k.a. the salary survey, is among the most popular of our reference materials. Who doesn’t want to know the going rate for their work? Most employers we surveyed this year—a higher percentage of them than last year, in fact—predict salary and staffing increases. No massive change is reflected in recent salaries, however. Average actual increases over the last four years range from 2.6 per cent to three per cent, which tracks close to cost-of-living increases. Alberta’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 8.6 per cent in July 2016. It had decreased to 6.7 per cent by July 2018. That’s a positive indicator, although the numbers do not reflect those Albertans who have dropped out of the job market entirely. That always happens during recessions, economists say— some people simply give up, so recoveries are not always as strong as they appear. If you’re, say, a 50-plus-year-old professional member laid off by an oil company a few years ago, you may well be continuing to struggle for consistent employment. I live in Calgary, so I connect with members in this situation all the time. Baby boomers take their breadth of knowledge and experience to the job market, but employers tend to think of junior professionals, rightly or wrongly, as more adaptable, affordable, and energetic. Even government incentives to encourage the hiring of skilled employees tend to focus on younger adults. Recent graduates, perhaps, are too much of a risk for many employers. The tight market seems to affect their end of the spectrum disproportionately, too. I don’t have the data to support this, but I do hear often from recent graduates who say they’re struggling to find jobs.

It’s indisputable that the Alberta economy is showing signs of recovery. But this time, the upswing is gradual, perhaps even fragile. The tenuous future of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion makes that abundantly clear. And as we all know, statistics never tell the whole story. I’m not an expert in job market analysis, but I do have some related experience. During my time at the University of Calgary, I helped more than 3,500 engineering students with their career choices. Most recently, I led the resettlement in Canada of 1,000 Tibetan refugees. I’ve also been hearing directly from members about their career challenges. So here’s my take on the situation. Being creative about career choices is particularly important for all of us in this economic climate. Regard- less of whether you are—or were—employed in oil and gas, you should look around at what else is going on, in everything from artificial intelligence to renewable en- ergy. We should use this opportunity to think carefully about what our work means to us. Is it merely a source of income? Or is it something more? Is there something you’re passionate about that, career-wise, you’ve been ignoring or putting on hold while life happened? I encourage you to think big and broad. Our skills as engineering and geoscience professionals go far beyond our specializations. And of course, I also encourage you—implore you, in fact—to continue to exhibit the professionalism that serving the public interest demands of you. More on that later. OUR SALARY SURVEY Alberta’s gradual recovery is clearly reflected in the summary version of the Value of Professional Services,

4 | PEG FALL 2018


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