November , 1999

APEGGA Urges Co-operation

On "Engineering" Titles Issue

The use of the protected titles "engineer" and "engineering" continues to be a concern to APEGGA and to the other provincial/territorial associations responsible for regulating the engineering profession in Canada. Emerging disciplines, such as "software engineering, biomedical engineering" and a host of other designations complicate enforcement of the provincial/territorial legislation significantly. The intent is clear, the titles are protected to give members of the general public confidence that when they retain a person or company using these titles they are receiving advice from fully qualified, experienced and licensed professionals. Professional associations, like APEGGA, are charged with the responsibility of enforcing the provisions of their respective Acts.

Awareness Important

The solution to the problem would seem to be quite straightforward — determine what is the practice of engineering, and what is not, and restrict the use of the protected titles to those who are, in fact, practicing engineering. The difficulty comes in making this determination, especially when many of these persons are not registered with APEGGA. This matter is being addressed at the national level but we must continue to work at the provincial level as well. Raising awareness of this issue among our Members and to others is an important first step. We must work with educational institutions at all levels to see that only properly accredited engineering programs apply the term "engineer" in the title of the degree or diploma being offered. And we must make industry aware of the importance of using correct titles in reference to their job descriptions and of hiring only fully qualified and licensed professionals to fill positions that require these skills.

Educational institutions have not always shown the level of concern that we would expect. Several universities in Canada, for example, are offering programs with titles such as "software engineering" which do not lead to an engineering degree and do not qualify graduates for registration as a professional engineer. This is misleading to the students and to the public. Unfortunately, this is largely driven by industry which is demanding "software engineers" when what it really requires are "software developers" or "computer scientists". It thus becomes a marketing issue for the education institutions who react largely to market demands.

Out-of-Court Agreement

For some time, discussions have been ongoing between the profession and Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) concerning a "software engineering" program being offered by the university’s Computer Science Department. Memorial acknowledges that this is not an engineering program and does not lead students to an engineering degree. Negotiations failed to reach a compromise and so an action was filed in the Supreme Court of Canada by the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers (CCPE) in conjunction with the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Newfoundland (APEGN). Recently, just prior to the scheduled hearing in the Supreme Court, negotiations began again and resulted in an agreement being signed between CCPE and MUN/AUCC (the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada). APEGN did not agree with the terms of the agreement and refused to participate in the signing.

The agreement required the court action to be withdrawn and sets guidelines for the establishment of a panel to be comprised of representatives of the engineering profession, the information processing profession, the engineering academic community and the computer science academic community, with an impartial chair. The panel is to be given one year to study the issue in detail and report with recommendations on how it might be resolved. The recommendations will not be binding on either party but both sides have pledged to use their best efforts to have them implemented.

Co-operative Approach

In contrast to this, APEGGA Council hopes to build upon the positive approach taken by the two universities in Alberta, the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta, both of which offer programs that are delivered co-operatively by the engineering and computer science departments.

This approach is in the best interests of the students, the profession and the public we serve. If applied nationally and supported by industry there would be no confusion, no disharmony and no expenditure of energy, time and resources dealing with what should be a very simple issue. Universities and other institutions should realize that there is no desire to restrict their academic freedom in any way or to interfere in the important work they do. But the safety of the public is paramount and must not be compromised in any way. The model offered by the Alberta universities represents a method of resolving this unfortunate issue and we applaud their initiative and common-sense approach. APEGGA Council fully supports this co-operative spirit and would encourage institutions in other provinces to follow the example set by the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta.


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