UPEI engineering graduates finding personal and professional success close to home
When Peter Doiron showed up in September 2013 for his first day of classes as a UPEI engineering student, he didn’t realize how different his next five years of study would be compared to past graduates.
“I started here when the program was housed in Dalton Hall and was there for two years in the two rooms that we had,” he says. “When the new facility was completed (in 2016) we got to take on larger projects in spaces for machining, welding, 3-D printing, electrical, and robotics which I really enjoyed.”
Adding state-of-the-art equipment and bright, spacious learning areas for the Faculty of Sustainable Design Engineering building allowed the faculty to expand its teaching complement and add knowledgeable technical staff to help students during their four- or five-year Bachelor of Sustainable Design Engineering degree program.
Dr. Wayne Peters, interim dean and associate professor, remembers his time as a UPEI engineering student.
“My own history is tied to UPEI very closely,” he says. “I was a student here, and my partner is also an engineer, and thinking back to that time we fully expected that when we left PEI to complete our engineering program, we knew we may never have a chance to come back to PEI to work as engineers.”
Prior to 2015, UPEI’s two-year Diploma in Engineering program required UPEI students to complete the final two years of a four-year degree program at transfer partner schools like the University of New Brunswick or Dalhousie University.
“In most cases once those students went on to become graduates and working engineers, they were looking elsewhere, likely going on to other places, and we didn’t see them come back to PEI,” Dr. Peters says. “Part of our vision when we created the bachelor's program here at UPEI was to give our students opportunities to stay, live, and work here in PEI which we are seeing at this point and that’s been a real success story for us.”
Mr. Doiron graduated with his Bachelor of Sustainable Design Engineering in 2018, and realized he had many opportunities to work in Prince Edward Island.
“Some friends of mine had applied to work at Charlottetown Metal Products and I thought I would apply as well,” he says. “I got an interview a week later and was hired a week after that, so it really worked out.”
At Charlottetown Metal Products, Peter was able to work toward his professional engineer (P.Eng.) designation in the Engineer-in-Training (EIT) program. Engineering practice in Prince Edward Island is regulated by EngineersPEI, and the EIT program provides a formal and detailed process for engineering graduates to become fully qualified professional engineers. In 2021, Peter became the first UPEI engineering graduate to complete the P.Eng. requirements.
“I completed an online competency-based program with 37 competencies you have to meet in order to become a professional engineer, and I completed an ethics exam within one year of graduation,” he says. “Then I had other professional engineers supervise and sign off on the work I've done over the course of gaining four years of working experience, and I met all the qualifications for the P.Eng. designation.”
“Part of our vision when we created the bachelor's program here at UPEI was to give our students opportunities to stay, live, and work here in PEI which we are seeing at this point and that’s been a real success story for us.” - Dr. Wayne Peters
Trevor Spinney, president of Charlottetown Metal Products, immediately recognized the potential of UPEI engineering graduates working with his business. As a successful food processing equipment designer and manufacturer and dedicated industry partner of the Faculty of Sustainable Design Engineering, Charlottetown Metal Products is often a perfect fit for graduates of the program.
“We've hired a lot of UPEI engineering graduates; I think we've hired a graduate from every class since the bachelor’s program started and currently that's 12 engineers now,” Mr. Spinney says. “We actually have four UPEI graduates joining us from this current class too.”
Building and maintaining relationships with local and regional community, government, and industry partners is a key component of the UPEI Bachelor of Sustainable Design Engineering program delivery model, providing students with real clients and companies looking for engineering solutions.
“Our whole program model is built on strong engagement with the community, with industry, with all levels of government,” Dr. Peters says. “This partnership and interactivity allow our students to work on real engineering problems for real partners and real clients. More importantly, it gives our students opportunities to gain real experiences in as close to a real-world environment as possible.”
Mr. Spinney sees the benefits of this delivery model every day, first-hand.
“I think it's probably one of the reasons that we hire UPEI graduates so much is in addition to having design process training all the way through the program, they start with real projects in year one, so they're already used to working with customers on developing and understanding scope and working collaboratively with team members towards a common goal of achieving that project,” he says.
“What we find in some other university engineering programs, unless there's a good co-op education program where students gain work experience every single summer, their students don't graduate with some of those professional skills we're looking for, like the ability to communicate. UPEI’s graduates are more rounded engineers that know how to communicate and converse with their team members and with our customers.”
“I'm glad UPEI had the vision to create a fully-accredited engineering program,” Mr. Spinney says. “For us, trying to attract engineers to the Island is always difficult so the opportunity to keep engineers here, train them here, and then have them stay here afterwards instead of two years here them going off to a program in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, or further afield keeps graduates focused on the Island.”
In the five years since the first graduating class of UPEI Bachelor of Sustainable Design Engineering student, 76 of 105 graduates are working full-time (55 with businesses and companies in Prince Edward Island) and 17 are enrolled in graduate programs. The recent addition of two graduate degree programs in engineering at UPEI provides even more opportunities for graduates to successfully contribute to Prince Edward Island’s communities and economy.
“There are lots of great things happening here, and a lot of companies like our own that are growing exponentially, so we need this resource available on the Island,” Mr. Spinney says. “It's encouraging to see more and more students enrolling in the engineering program at UPEI. We're certainly here to hire them.”
Peter Doiron couldn’t agree more.
“I was happy with getting a job in PEI. I have a 10-minute bike ride to work, and I don't think I would find that anywhere else,” he says. “As a UPEI graduate, I’m excited to see different parts of the world and I have that opportunity in my current role, while still living and in this great province.”