THE global economy may be running out of gas, but it's still pedal to the metal for Manitoba's engineering companies.
"The industry is still going strong," Ken Drysdale, president of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies -- Manitoba (ACEC-MB), said Wednesday.
"Right across Western Canada and in the North, it's very busy."
Drysdale said not only is Manitoba's decade-long construction boom continuing unabated, which means lots of work for local engineering companies, but Manitoba firms are also in high demand in other parts of the country.
"We've got an excellent reputation (across Canada)," he said, noting about 85 per cent of the projects Accutech Engineering -- the firm he works for -- is working on these days are in the North.
He said the biggest challenge most firms face is finding enough qualified workers. And it's not just engineers that are in short supply here and across the country, he added, but engineering technologists and technicians, as well.
"We have room for them all!"
Drysdale said the provincial nominee program has been helpful in attracting immigrant engineers from countries such as the United Kingdom, the Philippines and China.
"Pretty much every engineering firm has some foreign-trained engineers (on their staff)," he added.
The association also has been working closely with the University of Manitoba to develop co-operative training programs that will produce more workers for the industry.
"But we've got a long way to go yet."
Drysdale said the shortage is particularly acute with engineers in the 35- to 45-year-old range.
Numbers there are 30 to 50 per cent below where they should be, because so few university students enrolled in engineering-related programs in the late 1980s and early 1990s when few new construction projects were undertaken.
And even though enrolment is now up, Drysdale said there still aren't enough graduating engineers to fill all of the available positions.
Drysdale commented as the industry prepared to honour 2012's best engineering projects at its 2013 Manitoba Awards of Excellence in Consulting Engineering dinner Wednesday night at the Winnipeg Convention Centre.
A total of 28 projects were vying for awards in six categories: environmental, industrial, building engineering, infrastructure/transportation, energy resource development, and municipal and water technology.
Fourteen projects involving 10 engineering firms received awards, along with three individuals.
This year's entrants are a who's who of recent high-profile construction projects, including Winnipeg's new airport terminal project, the city's first rapid-transit-corridor project, the Disraeli and Osborne bridge projects and two Red River Floodway projects.
Tops honours -- the Keystone Award -- went to the Richardson International Airport terminal building and central utilities building upgrade.
Other recent Keystone Award winners include the Assiniboine River flood emergency project, the Winnipeg Water Treatment Plant project and Manitoba Hydro's downtown office building.
"These are all world-class projects," Drysdale said.
"People in the past have had perhaps not as positive an impression of Manitoba -- but that's all changed."
And the award goes to...
HERE is a list of the 2013 ACEC -- Manitoba Award Winning Projects and the engineering firms that worked on them:
Keystone Award -- Overall Winner
- Winnipeg's Richardson International Airport terminal building and central utilities building upgrade. SMS Engineering Limited.
- Rankin Inlet Mens' Correctional Healing Centre. (Award of Excellence). Accutech Engineering Inc.
- Richardson College for the Environment. (Award of Merit). SMS Engineering Limited.
Infrastructure and Transportation
- Winnipeg's First Rapid-Transit Corridor -- Southwest Transitway Project. (Award of Excellence). Dillon Consulting Limited.
- Disraeli Bridges Project. (Award of Excellence). Tetra Tech.
- The Red River Floodway inlet control structure trunnion anchor replacement project. (Award of Excellence). KGS Group and SNC Lavalin Inc.
- Osborne Street Bridge rehabilitation and widening project. (Award of Merit). Tetra Tech.
- Red River Floodway inlet control structure mechanical and electrical upgrades project. KGS Group and SNC Lavalin Inc.
- Headingley Wastewater Treatment Facility. (Award of Merit). Stantec Consulting Ltd.
- Lake of the Prairies spill response. (Award of Merit). AMEC.
Energy Resource Development
- Pointe du Bois spillway replacement project, eco-hydraulic studies. (Award of Merit). KGS Group.
- GE Aviation Engine Testing, Research and Development Centre. (Award of Excellence). KGS Group and MCW/AGE.
- Colonsay and K3 Greenfield substations: 230 kV GIS and 15 kV Distribution Systems. (Award of Merit). Hatch Ltd.
- Vanscoy 138kV power system project. (Award of Merit). SNC-Lavalin Inc.
Rising Star Award
- Kimberly Yathon, of Tetra Tech Inc., for demonstrated excellence in business practices, outstanding achievements in her applicable fields, leadership in the community and active participation in the association.
Engineering Action Award
- Ron Typliski, of AECOM, for outstanding service and dedication to the association, the Canadian consulting engineering profession and the community.
Lifetime Achievement Award
- Tim Stratton, of Stantec Consulting Ltd., for his leadership, achievements and contributions to consulting engineering.
-- source: Association of Consulting Engineering Companies, Manitoba