Executive Director's Report

Robert Ross, P.Eng.

The winds of change are blowing on the horizon for APEGGA and its members. Sometimes these winds are calm and we are able to negotiate our way through the maelstrom. At other times, they strike with the brute force of tornadoes and we have a more difficult time steering a true course. However, both afford an opportunity to blow away the cobwebs and allow us to see more clearly what is important to our professions.

This past year has been host to a myriad of challenges and opportunities, many of which have been reported on by President John Wood, P.Eng., in the previous pages. However, there are a few that I would like to elaborate on further.

Our membership continues to grow, with more than 28,000 licensed practitioners and 2,100 permit holders. With the third largest membership, after Ontario and Quebec, Alberta continues to be the most active on a number of fronts.

We have led the way in helping to ensure that geoscientists are recognized in their own right. APEGGA continues to be a strong voice at the discussion table with the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers and the other constituent associations on this and other national issues, like improved professional mobility, standardized experience requirements, continuing competence, and the future of the professions.

Your Association is committed to ensuring that only licensed, qualified individuals and companies are allowed to practice our professions in Alberta. It is critical to maintaining high standards and protecting the public's safety and best interests. The Alberta Society of Engineering Technologists and other paraprofessional groups have lobbied hard for change. They have done a good job at using simplistic arguments to suit their own ends. We have taken the high road to make certain the government's elected officials and senior public servants understand the reasons behind our opposition to a scope of practice for technicians and technologists outside the Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions Act. It has been frustrating at times, but it is the priority of Council and staff to ensure the right action is taken by government. On a related matter, a task force has been established to explore the concept of providing for a specified scope of practice category of licensure within the EGGP Act. This will enable individuals who do not currently have the credentials required for professional membership, but who do have an acceptable combination of academic training and experience, to undertake and accept responsibility for specified activities that fall within our professions as defined by the Act. The Task Force on Specified Scope of Practice has conducted forums to gather input on this proposal from key stakeholders. The results of the task force's work to date will be presented to the membership at the Annual General Meeting on April 19.

Intensive investigation and discussion this past year has resulted in an accepted plan of action with regard to a mandatory continuing competency program for APEGGA members. Practitioners must demonstrate ability in their given area of expertise in order to maintain public confidence in our professions -- a lifelong learning exercise. Members will be called upon to prove their competence and will be held accountable if they do not meet acceptable standards.

If APEGGA members are to be held more accountable, so too must the Association. To this end, the Roles and Responsibilities Task Force is developing an implementation plan to ensure Council focuses on determining policy, for managing and dealing with issues facing the professions, and for broader decision-making. The role of the Executive Director will be strengthened, allowing Council to focus on the "big picture". Staff will be more responsible for the day-to-day activities of the organization and increased accountability will be an integral component of the way we do business. The transition from the existing to the improved structure will prove to be invigorating for the Association and its members.

The legislative changes placed before government nearly two years ago await proclamation as this report is prepared. These changes call for a more open discipline and appeal process, with public members appointed to both committees and open hearings, and an increase to four from two years in the experience requirement. Accountability and responsibility have always been the hallmarks of our professions and public scrutiny is welcome.

Scrutiny should not be deemed to be negative. It allows for more open communication between the Association and the public it serves. Over the past five years, APEGGA has led the country with its advertising, public relations and student outreach programs. Many of you may wonder why it is necessary to advertise or promote the professions, particularly in light of our regulatory function. It is not a recruitment tactic, rather it is an education strategy. By educating the public, opinion leaders, educators and students about the valuable contributions made by APEGGA members we shed light on what have previously perceived to have been "invisible" professions. With rapid advancements in technology, we need to keep pace. We cannot count on the public to know who we are and what we do. We must tell them ourselves. The leverage gained by the increased awareness of our professions will provide long-term benefits.

Finally, as we face these challenges and changes, it is important to recognize that we are not alone. Other professions are facing similar confrontations and opportunities. We can choose to lead the way or follow the pack. Others are looking to us for vision, let's show them we have the commitment to stay the course.

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