March 2008 Issue

President’s Notebook

We Make a Difference —
And You Make a Difference


APEGGA President

We Make a Difference is the title of a talk and PowerPoint presentation I’ve made to APEGGA branches across the province. I certainly stand by the title, but the presentation could just as accurately be called You Make a Difference.

Every Council year, your President and President-Elect team up with APEGGA Executive Director Neil Windsor, P.Eng., to hit the road for a tour through every branch in Alberta. It’s during this series of meetings we are reminded that the strength of any organization dedicated to this critically important business of self-regulation, lies in its volunteers and its grassroots.

We visit plants, and meet dignitaries and local movers and shakers. We stop in on permit-holding companies. We officiate at Member Induction Ceremonies, and we meet with the branch executives and other local APEGGA members.

APEGGA has 10 branches, and nine of them have hosted us, from the two biggest urban branches, Calgary and Edmonton, to the less central rural ones. We’ve been to economic heart of the oilsands, into the irrigation district of Southern Alberta, and into the centre of Alberta’s transportation corridor.
Central Alberta, Fort McMurray, Lakeland, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Peace River, Vermilion River — it’s been quite a journey. Although the trail has reached its end, the memories and impressions remain strong.

You really do make a difference, in your communities, in your work, in your self-regulating organization and throughout the world. Getting in touch with just how much that’s true, over a few short months, is a staggering experience.

My Message
We were interested in your stories and concerns, of course. We also, however, had a message of our own to deliver. For those who didn’t catch my presentation, I’ll go over a few highlights here.
Any message about APEGGA these days exists in the context of incredible growth. We celebrated our 50,000th member last year, and already we have passed the 51,000 mark in 2008.

To put that into perspective, our Board of Examiners dealt with 465 applications in January alone. The total for last year was more than 6,000 applications. A mere 10 years ago, the application total for the year was 2,370, and in 2005 it was 3,200.

It is the Board of Examiners’ job to make sure qualified applicants receive their membership in an efficient, thorough and timely way. It is not the board’s job, however, to lower the standards that protect the public — standards that make all of you proud to practice your professions.

Changing Demographics
There’s a myth circulating that self-regulators such as APEGGA place unnecessary barriers in front of practitioners from other countries from joining their ranks. I can assure you this is definitely not the case.

First of all, the volunteer Board of Examiners itself reflects the diversity of our membership. Twenty-five per cent of the board’s membership is made up of people who are internationally educated graduates.

Secondly, APEGGA and the Board of Examiners have taken deliberate steps to improve the licensure process for everyone, with special emphasis on those educated elsewhere.

The newly created Provisional Licensee designation directly addresses the difficulty newly arrived, potential members face. The Provisional Licence tells employers that the licensee has met all the qualifications necessary for licensure except the required one year of North American experience.
The Provisional Licence removes what’s often been called a Catch-22 situation, in that the internationally educated graduate can work safely, under supervision, to get the required year of experience. After that, the member will be licensed.

Our mentoring program, too, pays specific attention to the needs of newcomers. As well, our Registration Department materials have been made more user-friendly for internationally educated graduates. There’s even a special icon on the front of the APEGGA website to help IEGs through the process.

Why does this matter to you, to APEGGA and to Alberta? Because right now more than 70 per cent of the professional members we register come from outside the province, and IEG applicants make up half of those.

On the Labour Horizon
Also important, however, is the need to make sure our members can do — or send — their work elsewhere. This issue is called professional mobility, and you can read about our efforts on this front in my President’s Notebook in the January 2008 PEGG Online.

One of the reasons why we care about mobility is that we know the skilled labour shortage won’t go on forever. In fact, our data suggest that over the next decade, the supply of skilled labour will actually surpass demand. A synopsis of our paper on the market appears on page 9 of this edition of The PEGG.

APEGGA is making huge mobility inroads. Our relationship with state boards in the U.S. has never been better. Nevada, for example, has signed a reciprocal agreement with APEGGA that makes a P.Eng. equal to a PE after four years of experience. We expect other boards to follow suit.

Ballot Issues
I’ve also discussed two important issues on the ballot, this year — rights to vote and run for office for members-in-training, and changing the designations of P.Geol. and P.Geoph. to a single designation, P.Geo.

Over recent months, we have sought your input on these matters and decided there is enough interest to put them on the ballot of the Council election now underway. Therefore, I leave these matters in your hands.

One Act, Two Associations
Most of you know about our historic agreement to partner with ASET under our EGGP Act, to increase the number of engineering and geoscience practitioners under the regulatory umbrella.

These are still early days in that process, and realistically not a lot will happen now until things settle after the provincial election. However, I want to assure you that ASET and APEGGA are still very much committed to the One Act, Two Associations model, and to creating and jointly regulating a new P.Tech. designation.

Sign-off System
A few years ago APEGGA, five other professional organizations and the province tackled the issue of land remediation and reclamation for industrial, and oil and gas sites. It was time, we believed, for self-regulation to become the approved system for signing off on reclamation certificates.

As of Jan. 1, a system your Association played a key role in developing took effect in the oil and gas sector. This is big for Alberta. It is also a template that other regulators across the country may well choose to follow, and it is great step forward for public protection.

Check the February PEGG Online for more about that story.

Geoscience Work
On the geoscience side, Council’s Geoscience Committee has worked throughout this year on the P.Geo. issue, along with an extensive survey of the number of professional geoscientists in Alberta-based companies involved with the energy and environmental industries. The survey found that just over half of the geoscientists in Alberta practicing their discipline are APEGGA professional members.
This level of compliance is unacceptable and a concerted effort will be made to bring the level of compliance in line with the engineering disciplines in the province. We will begin with our permit holders and meet with the senior executives and Responsible Members of the largest employers of geoscientists in the province, and explain to them the value and legal requirement for them to have their geoscientists registered.

This approach is preferable to using other means at our disposal of ensuring compliance of our permit holders with the EGGP Act. With the support of several of the geoscience societies, we hope to spread this message far and wide and thus raise the level of com-pliance to a more acceptable level.

In Closing
These have been a few highlights of what your Association is working on, as we continue to do our best to make a difference in a challenging and changing world.

I believe we’re on the right track. What I didn’t hear during the President’s Visits was any groundswell of dissatisfaction.

We’ll never keep everyone happy all of the time. It appears to me, however, that generally the membership approves of the directions we’re taking.

That’s great news for you, for your Association and for Alberta.

Contact Me
Perhaps you agree, perhaps not. Whatever the case or whatever your comment, about these or any other APEGGA matters, please do contact me at president@apegga.org.

Council Election, M.I.T. and P.Geo. Issues
Inform yourself and VOTE!