January 2002

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The Trends of Specialization and Certification


“Professional engineers, geologists and geophysicists shall undertake only work that they are competent to perform by virtue of their training and experience.” In Alberta, we do not register by discipline or specialization. Instead, it is up to each professional to judge his or her level of competency. For example, an individual trained as an electrical engineer may undertake the design of a roadway — if by their training and experience they judge that
they are competent.

This has been the practice for decades, and it has worked very well.
But there appears to be a trend towards the requirements for additional qualifications in certain areas of professional practice. In British Columbia, a “structural engineer of record” designation is proposed in response to concerns over seismic capabilities of some professional engineers, as exhibited in their submission of building permit applications.

In Quebec, engineers working in the contaminated sites remediation area must obtain additional certification.

Will We Be Next?

Will APEGGA members be subject to additional regulation from sources such as provincial or municipal governments, stock exchanges or industry groups?

Why the new trend? Has government downsizing and associated outsourcing of review and approval activities resulted in a trend toward implementing certification requirements to ensure that firms and individuals carrying out work are qualified? Is it lack of confidence resulting from poor work by rofessionals not adhering to the Code of Ethics and working outside their area of competency? Is it market demand in certain areas of practice? Or is it protectionism by some professionals?

Perhaps all of the above?

Whatever the reasons, APEGGA needs to be concerned. Certifications which allow individuals who are not registered professionals with APEGGA are misleading and may allow those certified, and the public, to believe that certification makes them a professional. There is a real potential for loss of mandate. Political interference could influence lists and registries of “qualified persons.” Criteria used to develop lists may be questionable. Mobility of members could be restricted.

Currently APEGGA does not support The Trends of Specialization and Certification
registration by specialization or certification. We support dependence on the code of ethics, development of strong guidelines and the discipline process to allow members to practice to their level of competency. We need to, and will, develop professional guidelines in certain problem areas. And most of all, we must strive to maintain the confidence of the public and other users of engineering services.

But is registration by specialization or certification something that will eventually happen?

I look forward to your thoughts!
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