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Construction Career

Civil Engineers Create Something from Nothing


Turn your ideas from thoughts to real-life builds.

Theodore von Karman once said, ‘The scientist explores what is, the engineer creates what has never been’. The engineer is a master of both the tangible and creative, bringing together both worlds to create something that societies benefit from. You interact with the tireless work of engineers every day of your life. From your apartment to the building you work in, to the train you ride to work, these things were once just an idea in an engineer’s head. Those ideas went through a rigorous process to become the high-functioning structures that we see today&emdash;and this is how that process might look.

From Nothing

First comes the idea or a need or a problem. For example, before the first Port Mann bridge was erected in 1964, someone saw a way to help more people get to and from work and home more efficiently. Someone saw the problem and the way to fix it.

On Paper

Back in 1964, they didn’t AutoCAD to design buildings on computers before it was designed in real life. Today, AutoCAD makes turn an idea into a reality much simpler by allowing engineers to create a digital blueprint for their idea.

Construction of Port Mann Bridge, circa 1964

COnstruction of the Port Mann Bridge, circa 1964. Source: Vancouver Public Library, Special Collections, VPL 41338. Province newspaper photo.

To Something

Once the blueprints are completed and approved, the construction can begin. The engineer’s blueprints are followed exactly, and their creation comes to life. This is where the help of a large group of people help the engineer’s idea come into being. The construction foreman oversees the work, the construction worker creates the structure, the crane operator moves the material. It takes many people working together to make any large structure.

Or Something Else

Sometimes, long after something has been created, it might need to be updated to withstand new pressures or problems that have arisen after it’s creation. Civil engineering is about more than just creating something new, it’s also about maintaining and adapting. This can mean the roads we drive on, the railways, energy supplies or others. The type of engineer that might address these problems depends on their specialty, since there are many different types of civil engineers: environmental, structural, municipal, transport or geotechnical.

Construction of the new Port Mann Bridge, 2012

New construction of the 10 lane cable-stayed Port Mann Bridge, in 2012, being built beside the old Port Mann bridge before its desconstruction. Source:

A Career in Civil Engineering

If you enjoy seeing your ideas come to life or are good at using your creative skills to solve problems, civil engineering may be the role you’re looking for. Civil engineers create nearly every structure you see around you and have a hand in shaping the way that society functions. If you want to have a positive impact on your community and create structures or systems that people are going to benefit from their whole lives, then civil engineering is for you.

For more information on civil engineering, or to apply for our Civil Infrastructure Design Diploma program, call 604-430-5608 or watch our program overview here.

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