May 2006 ISSUE

President’s Notebook

Challenges Beckon as Association Builds on 86 Years of Success


APEGGA President

I am honoured that you’ve elected me to be your President for the coming year. In my limited experience with elections, I’ve come to appreciate just how special a favourable outcome is.

So for those who voted in 2005 — whether for me or not — thank you very much for exercising your right. And thanks as well, of course, to everyone who voted this year, selecting John McLeod, P.Eng., as your President-Elect.

Your attention to Association business is worth the effort. APEGGA is, after all, a very important institution in the fabric of Alberta society. It is charged with protecting the Alberta public from incompetent or unethical practitioners in the professions of engineering, geology and geophysics.
I think we can garner some satisfaction from APEGGA’s success in administering the Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions Act over the past 86 years. We do not often see life-threatening failures of buildings, bridges, process plants or dams — engineering disasters that still too often plague the developing world.

APEGGA’s proven registration process ensures that only properly qualified practitioners receive a licence to practice in Alberta. Our Continuing Professional Development Program requires licence holders to keep abreast of developments in their areas of practice. And the Association’s discipline and enforcement processes ferret out and deal with the small number of practitioners who do not abide by the professions’ technical and ethical standards.

Your Association is run by a very capable and dedicated professional staff, led by the affable and very effective Executive Director & Registrar Neil Windsor, P.Eng. You, the members, can be very proud of the professionalism shown by the Association’s staff and the high regard with which they are held throughout the industry.

Your elected Council of 16 professional members and three appointed public members provides excellent oversight of Association affairs and is diligent in setting long-range goals and operating policies. The volunteer efforts of Council — and indeed the 700 members who volunteer their time to make the professions respected in Alberta — are to be commended.

And Now for the Challenges
All of this is not to say that challenges and issues don’t exist — they do.
Your Council and senior staff will be convening a strategic retreat at Pigeon Lake this month to review and update our 10-year Strategic Plan. We will be stretching our imaginations to try to spot the key trends and how they will affect the professions and the public interest.

Regulating the practice of the professions, leading the professions, upholding members, and consulting with members and stakeholders — these are the key areas we’ll focus on.

Our Strategic Planning Committee has already consulted widely with members through stakeholder forums, member surveys and feedback received during the recent President’s Visits. As your now Past-President Larry Staples, P.Eng., and I went around the province and visited all 10 branches, we met with representatives of companies, local government, chambers of commerce, the military and other stakeholders.

One overriding trend was evident everywhere we went — Alberta is in an unprecedented high-growth period, with every sector of the economy firing on all cylinders.

The major driving force, as everyone knows, is the oil and gas sector, in particular development of Alberta’s oil sands — the world’s second largest oil deposit. This appears to be coming about due to a combination of factors, such as high world oil prices driven by a supply/demand squeeze, international recognition that the oil sands present a secure North American source, and the success Alberta’s professionals have had in reducing the operating costs of oil sands extraction over the past 30-plus years.

There was an underlying commitment evident to that old saying (modified slightly for printing): “Please Lord, give us one more boom, and we promise not to mess it up this time.”

People Resources Strained
The development of over $130 billion in capital projects is now underway. This construction and the staffing needed to operate these plants are severly straining professional resources. Professional engineers, geologists and geophysicists are coming to Alberta in record numbers.

APEGGA expects to receive 5,000 applications for membership this year — approximately one third Alberta grads, one-third from other north American jurisdictions, and one-third from internationally educated graduates. Our volunteer Board of Examiners is being expanded and processes are being refined to handle the significantly increased workload while still ensuring that our high professional standards are maintained.

We were delighted to hear the Hon. Gene Zwozdesky, Alberta Minister of Education, announce recently that the numbers of engineering seats at our two largest universities are to be increased.

ASET Situation
We are poised to enter into discussions with ASET to create a One Act, Two Associations regulatory model. We believe there is an opportunity to improve the regulation of the overall professions of engineering, geology and geophysics, by bringing technologists into a regulatory framework.

Through this system, technologists will become subject to similar regulatory requirements that our members are now subject to, including continuing education, discipline and consistent ethical standards. We believe that the public interest will be better served by us embracing ASET as partners with APEGGA in regulating the three professions under one act.

We look forward to initiating these discussions with our friends at ASET, and pledge to keep our members in the loop as developments occur.

Other Priorities
During the coming year we will also be moving forward on the other strategic priorities that were identified by Council at last year’s strategic retreat.

  • Consultation with members will be advanced further with a full formal member survey; and we will investigate the possibility of electronic voting.

  • We will continue to build a strong culture of personalized professionalism.

  • We will complete our review of off-shored engineering and recommend action that might be required.

  • We will continue to enhance society’s understanding of key trends and issues coming under our purview.

Finally, we will work diligently with our friends from the United States. We believe the time has come to make progress on cross-border mobility, and we’re encouraged by the spirit of trust and fairness that came out at the second U.S./Canada Mobility Forum, which we hosted during the APEGGA Annual Conference last month in Edmonton.

I commit to you that we will work diligently to find ways to meet the challenges ahead while continuing to protect the Alberta public.

I invite you to share your ideas and questions with me via president@apegga.org, or to share them with your colleagues via a letter to The PEGG editor.