APEGGA's Business Plan
By Fred D. Otto, P.Eng., PhD
In November 1996, Council approved a business plan for the Association. The plan gives clarity to the role and purpose of APEGGA and identifies strategic directions and initiatives that will strengthen the Association and enhance its relevance to both the public and our members. In this my final column as President of your Association, I would like to highlight major aspects of the plan, identify achievements and comment on some of the challenges facing our professions.
The practices of our professions are technologically complex and have large impacts on society, along with ethical obligations to the public, employers, clients and the professions. Thus, it is appropriate to have a means of regulating and controlling how the professions of engineering, geology and geophysics are conducted. This is the role of APEGGA. The Association fosters an understanding of the principles contained in the Code of Ethics, controls who can practice the professions of engineering, geology and geophysics, and must investigate allegations of unskilled practice or unprofessional conduct of members. The relevance of APEGGA to the public and to our members is very much a function of the success that APEGGA has in ensuring competent and ethical practice by our members.
In recognition of the fact that the prime responsibility of APEGGA is to the public, the business plan gives major emphasis to strengthening APEGGA's activities in the core responsibility areas of registration, enforcement, discipline and setting practice standards.
Important initiatives and tactics include:
- a mandatory continuing competence program to improve the commitment of members to professional development;
- proactive practice reviews starting in 1997;
- a more open and arms-length discipline process which separates investigative and discipline responsibilities;
- publication of a guideline on Human Rights Issues in Professional Practice;
- a four-year experience requirement for professional registration and measures to improve the quality of references received during the registration process;
- encouraging members to report situations that contravene the Act, Regulations and the Code of Ethics;
- upgrading the professional practice examination to include material on industrial safety and loss management:
- in conjunction with the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers and other provincial and territorial associations, strengthening enforcement activity which is aimed at protecting the public from confusion which may result from the improper use of the terms engineer and engineering ( The designation "software engineer" is now a significant issue in this respect.):
- educating, providing guidance and encouraging members and permit holders to be proactive in the protection and stewardship of the environment;
- assisting the implementation of the Canadian Council of Professional Geoscientists.
APEGGA has a responsibility to governments to understand and be responsive to government policies and directions and to ensure consistency of objectives and policies. On the other hand, we believe that government has a reciprocal responsibility to respect the actions and decisions made by APEGGA. In recognition of the obvious need to have good working relationships with governments, the business plan provides for the reorganization and expansion of APEGGA's government relations activities. This includes a program of regular contacts with MLAs and public servants.
MLAs were provided with an update on APEGGA activities at a successful dinner for members of caucus in August 1996 and similar events will be held in the future. Another initiative is the setting up of a joint task force with the Consulting Engineers of Alberta to develop strategies to improve understanding of the needs of rural municipalities for professional services and to promote the value of professional service. The assurance of competent and ethical services and an effective discipline process to deal with complaints about members are reasons why professional engineers, geologists and geophysicists should be hired to take responsibility for engineering and geoscience work.
The 1994 amendment to the Municipal Government Act removed the exemption from business licence fees for architects, professional engineers, geologists and geophysicists and land surveyors. In order that the members of our Association continue to have the exemption which has been historically available to all professions, an amendment to the Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions Act is required. This is being pursued.
An issue of long standing is the aspiration of the Alberta Society of Engineering Technologists to have a scope of practice for engineering technologists administered by ASET. APEGGA, as well as the Provincial Government, would like to see a resolution of this issue. The business plan provides for APEGGA to continue to explore the potential to use the concept of a specified scope of practice to allow suitably qualified technologists to take responsibility for engineering work in a defined area of practice. I believe that revising the regulations to permit the granting of a licence by the APEGGA Board of Examiners to certain Registered Engineering Technologists (RETs), in accordance with the specified scope concept, is a rational and responsible way of addressing the so-called ASET issue. Such an initiative would build on the revisions made to the regulations in 1985 which provide an exclusive right to title for RETs. It would benefit individual technologists and permit holders who have in their employment technologists who can demonstrate the ability to take responsibility for engineering work in a limited area of practice. Those receiving a licence under this proposal would be subject to the APEGGA discipline process for incidents of unskilled practice and to continuing competence and practice review requirements. APEGGA will continue to seek the support of ASET for this initiative.
APEGGA does not support independent scope of practice legislation outside the EGGP Act for engineering technologists because it is not possible to have a generic and enforceable definition of engineering technology that is clearly independent of engineering.
Advancing Science and Technology
Advancement of science and technology is a key factor in maintaining the status of our professions, competing in the global economy, and in maintaining and improving the economic well-being and quality of life for Albertans. The business plan provides for enhancing activities that promote awareness of the important role that science and technology play in society and the value of research and development. We can all be proud of the reputation that APEGGA has established as a leader in encouraging and helping develop an interest in science and engineering among Alberta students.
A new undertaking is the creation of the APEGGA Education Foundation. This has the potential to become an important way for members of our professions to assist our universities to maintain the quality and relevance of educational programs in engineering, geology and geophysics. Gifts to the foundation are eligible for tax credits and will be used for scholarships and other educational initiatives.
Value of Professional Membership
An important policy statement in the business plan is "APEGGA will enhance the value and relevance of professional membership for engineers, geologists and geophysicists." Discussions that I have had with members reinforce that this will be best achieved by strengthening standards in APEGGA's core responsibility areas. The continuing competence and proactive review programs will be of assistance in doing this. To complement these programs, APEGGA will become more active in the area of professional development of members. This will include professional development days, enhanced collaboration with technical societies, publishing continuing education opportunities and assisting with the identification of skill needs for particular competencies. The APEGGA home page is now well established on the Web and it will become a meaningful source of professional development information.
Other initiatives expected to enhance value for members include a greater focus on members-in-training, establishing standards for contract employment and exploring the need and potential to have group health insurance programs specifically for APEGGA members.
The nature of our organization is reflected in the performance indicators that are identified in the plan. Primary performance indicators for our professions are:
- incidents of unethical and unskilled practice;
- incidents of public harm attributed to the professional performance of members;
- uniformity and appropriateness of standards of admission and practice for engineers and geoscientists across the country;
- mobility of Canadian engineers and geoscientists in the global economy;
- the quality and relevance of university educational programs for engineers and geoscientists;
- Act and regulations that include rights to title and exclusive scopes of practice for engineers and geoscientists;
- public and government trust and acceptance;
- member satisfaction and esteem;
- student enrollment in science related programs;
- public support for science and technology.
The business plan is based on six strategic policy statements that were identified by Council and Directors at a planning session held in May 1996. It is forward-looking and provides a framework to guide the activities of the Association over the long term. However, it is a living document that will require regular examination and renewal. The next up-date of the plan will follow a Council workshop that is scheduled for May 1997. I encourage members to obtain a copy of the plan from the APEGGA office in either Edmonton or Calgary. Your suggestions for improvements are welcome.
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