A new STEM Camp Series designed for junior high and high school students considering post-secondary career opportunities was brought to Red Deer for the first time. Presented by the Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta (ASET), STEM Camp Series day camps took place at Red Deer Polytechnic on May 3 and 10. The ASET STEM Camp Series is geared to help address a nationally recognized STEM skills shortage.

Each ASET STEM Camp Series day camp hosted students from Wolf Creek Public Schools, with students from Bentley School, Alix-MAC School, Lacombe Outreach School, and Eckville Junior/Senior High School attending the May 3 day camp, and a group from Rimbey Junior Senior High School at the May 10 event. 

Students from all schools will participated in workshops familiarizing them with what it is like to work as an electrical engineering technologist and mechanical engineering technologist, and had the chance to build an unassembled remote control car. 

The electrical engineering technology workshop taught students to identify electrical components with a specific function and put together an electrical system using these parts. The second workshop, mechanical engineering technology, instructed them in the assembly of the mechanical components of the car, resulting in a finished product: a remote control car ready to race!

In between workshops, students learned about the difference between the engineering technology and engineering professions, and the many disciplines and occupations that exist within engineering technology. 

Two recent studies signalled the urgency of attracting more Canadians to STEM careers, including youth poised to enter post-secondary education. Last summer, the C.D. Howe Institute released a report called The Knowledge Gap, which indicated that Canada faces a significant digital and STEM skills shortage due to the aging population and rapid digitalization across the economy - a reality further intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unresolved, these skill shortages will have a negative impact on Canadian businesses and the economy. One of the report’s recommendations was to increase STEM enrolment and graduation numbers by raising students’ performance in STEM subjects.

Photo of student and instructor working on robot. Photo supplied by ASET. 

 A report by Statistics Canada in April 2022 about 2021 Census results revealed that one in five Canadians is nearing retirement, which will create labour shortages and challenges for Canadian companies and businesses. It also found that Alberta is one of only three Canadian provinces where children under the age of 15 still outnumber people aged 65 and older. Alberta leads the other two provinces in this with its youth a vital future resource.

“Given the economic realities outlined in the C.D. Howe Institute and Statistics Canada reports, there are compelling reasons for ASET to broaden its junior high and high school outreach and give youth practical exposure to careers in engineering technology. We are pleased to bring that outreach in the form of the STEM Camp Series to Red Deer,” said ASET CEO Barry Cavanaugh. “The Camp Series opens a window to a whole new world of post-secondary possibilities, and encourages youth to develop valuable skills that will be in demand for years to come.”

According to ASET’s 2021 Salary Survey, electrical engineering technologists and mechanical engineering technologists starting their careers as technologists-in-training (TTs) command average annual salaries of approximately $68,000 and $61,000 respectively. TTs are graduates of polytechnics/technical colleges, have engineering technology diplomas, and are registered with ASET and in the process of accumulating the necessary field experience to earn their designations as certified engineering technologists (CETs).

ASET is partnering with school boards to develop student outreach activities in association with Alberta’s polytechnics/technical colleges.