Professional Development Days Provide Learning Opportunities

By Tracey Horne-Pettipas and Nordahl Flakstad

APEGGA Professional Development Days held recently in Calgary, Edmonton and Fort McMurray attracted close to 600 participants.

More than 270 members attended the morning and afternoon sessions Nov. 16 in Calgary, some 240 members were on hand for a day-long session in Edmonton on Nov. 24, and a further 50 took part in the PD program staged by the Fort McMurray Branch on Nov. 20.

Swami Swaminathan, P.Eng., chair of the Fort McMurray Branch, termed interest and participation at the branch's session "very positive".

Participants questioned at the Calgary session indicated the program helped raise their awareness of some of the issues engineers, geologists and geophysicists face or could face in their careers. There also appeared agreement that the topics presented were relevant and timely. Many of the Calgary participants suggested a two-day event would have been helpful so they could attend presentations they had to miss because of concurrent sessions. Seminars provided interesting discussions based on case studies and examples raised by participants. The sessions in Calgary and Edmonton followed similar formats and some topics and presenters were part of the program at both locations. In Calgary, topics appearing to attract the most attention were project management, career management and managing engineers.

The project management session in Calgary provided some interesting discussion as Francis Hartman, P.Eng., director of project management specialization at The University of Calgary, introduced "outside the box" thinking as a new and creative way to manage projects. One of those new ideas is that future projects could be managed based on a "trust" model involving the trust of all parties involved. Although a very debatable issue, Mr. Hartman believes that, within five years, contracts and formal documents could take a back seat to the "trust" model.

As we move towards a more technology-based work place, jobs are no longer secure and individual career paths are no longer clear, Claudia Verburgh, a senior manager with KPMG Consulting, told participants in the Calgary career management session. She stressed the need for participants to take responsibility for their careers, continue their professional development and keep evaluating themselves on what they want out of their work.

Also in Calgary, John Whittaker, professor of engineering management at the University of Alberta, discussed current research on the managing of engineers. By knowing what an engineer does and by defining the role of the knowledge worker, a basis for establishing mutually beneficial relationships develops, he said. In his Edmonton presentation on contract employment, Harry Taylor, C.A., noted factors Revenue Canada are likely to take into account in determining whether someone is an employee or self-employed. They include how involved someone is in planning or controlling of time and location of work, supervision of standards, reporting procedures and training. (Are you in charge of your own training?) Details such as wording on a business card and whether one has a phone in the office of the firm buying one's services, also can come into play when tax officials gauge an employee vs. self-employed status. "Just because you call yourself an independent contractor, doesn't mean you are one," Mr. Taylor stressed.

Bill Page, LL.B., P.Eng., in speaking on "Duty to Report" noted that while there are legal and ethical obligations for professionals to report inappropriate or unprofessional conduct, ultimately the issue entails a matter of conscience. "The duty to report, " he said, "is all about answering to yourself."

Some sessions also allowed registrants to hone specific skills, such as making effective or written presentations, speed reading and investment planning.