Terri-Jane Yuzda


Member Dues Remain at 2003 Level in New Budget

Editor’s Note: Following is a report on the most recent APEGGA Council meeting, held Nov. 27 at the D.A. Lindberg Conference Centre at the APEGGA Edmonton offices. The next Council meeting is Thursday, Feb. 5, at APEGGA’s Calgary Conference Centre, starting at 8:30 a.m.

Council approved a “good news budget” with no 2004 increase in dues. Executive Director & Registrar Neil Windsor, P.Eng., said the balanced budget is possible primarily because of higher-than-estimated application and membership growth in 2003.

APEGGA will carry forward a surplus of about $100,000 into 2004, rather than the shortfall of $189,000 projected in the 2003 budget. That means an anticipated $10 increase per member won’t be necessary after all, even though new initiatives foreseen back in 2002 will still go ahead. Annual dues remain at $225 per professional member.

Conservative revenue estimates in last year’s budget were prudent, Mr. Windsor said, given the low performance of market investments and an uncertain economy. Record membership growth, however, continued in 2003, with APEGGA officially welcoming its 40,000th member late in the year.

The 2004 budget forecasts revenue from dues of more than $6.8 million. Dues revenue in 2003 topped $6.2 million.

Overall revenue – which, in addition to dues, includes permit fees, registration fees, investment income and several other sources – is estimated at $9.42 million in 2004. That’s up about nine per cent from $8.63 million, the latest estimate for 2003 revenue.

The budget anticipates some new spending and hiring, most of it necessary to handle growth and the Association’s efforts to become more inclusive by creating new types of registration. APEGGA will hire an Assistant Director of Registration, allowing the Director of Registration to concentrate on policy and inclusivity, and allowing the department to better handle increased registration volume.

Last May, Council directed APEGGA to improve its public protection role through new registration categories. Many practitioners in Alberta are practicing types of engineering and geoscience that fall through the cracks, because they aren’t eligible for registration in existing categories. APEGGA’s job, under the Kananaskis Model of inclusivity, is to create more categories for limited, defined scopes of practice, appropriate to specific experience and education.

Once again, APEGGA faces an increase in the amount it puts towards the employee pension plan, because poor market performance has ended its so-called “contribution holiday.” This year’s contribution is estimated at $375,000, up from about $340,000 last year and $131,000 in 2002. The employee contribution increases to four per cent of salary from three per cent in 2003. Employees contributed two per cent in 2002.

EGGP Act Changes Needed

APEGGA must respond to a November courtroom loss by seeking stronger wording in its governing provincial act, Council decided. The Appeal Court of Alberta dismissed APEGGA’s application for an injunction to stop an Edmonton man from calling himself a “System Engineer” and “System Engineer Representative” in his information technology business.

That means Raymond Merhej is allowed to continue using the titles – even though he is not a professional engineer. APEGGA argued that Mr. Merhej is in contravention of exclusive right-to-title provisions in the Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions Act.

The three justices of the appeal court, however, disagreed and dismissed APEGGA’s appeal on Nov. 26. As of press time their written decision, which will include their reasoning, wasn’t available.

Executive Director Neil Windsor, P.Eng., called the decision “very detrimental” to APEGGA’s role in protecting the public. “Now, we have no choice but to have the EGGP Act changed,” he said. The act needs to clarify right-to-title provisions so that titles are fully protected for use only by APEGGA professionals, and it needs to clarify APEGGA’s legal authority to protect the public, Mr. Windsor said.

New Registration Category Coming

APEGGA is creating a new category of registered practitioner, for degree-holding members who aren’t eligible to become professional engineers, professional geologists or professional geophysicists. They’ll be allowed to work within defined scopes, based on demonstrated areas of competence.

Council approved a statement of policy and requirements for the new category of membership, brought forward by the Inclusivity Task Force. The task force’s job was to act on the Kananaskis Model of inclusivity, designed to further protect the public by bringing more engineering and geoscience practitioners under the APEGGA umbrella.

Council called on staff to implement the new category and put it before the 2004 APEGGA Annual General Meeting, April 24. Timelines are tight, however, because Council was unable to agree on what the designations should be called. The task force recommended Registered Engineer, Registered Geologist and Registered Geophysicist.

Members registered under the new category will have at least a four-year degree in engineering, geology, geophysics, science or medicine, related to their defined scopes of practice and from a college or university acceptable to APEGGA. They’ll have to meet a number of other requirements for licensure as well, much like professional engineers, geologists and geophysicists do.

‘Bad Rap’ for Engineers

Cost overruns at massive oil-and-gas projects in Alberta are a complex problem, and some proponents are unfairly making engineers the scapegoats, APEGGA President Mike Smyth, P.Eng., said. “Big projects are getting big headlines about big overruns, and they’re blaming bad engineering. And personally, I think that’s a bad rap,” Mr. Smyth told Council.

Mr. Smyth said construction costs and project management problems are involved in the overruns more than engineering costs are. Initial estimates by the builders themselves were often too optimistic, and the sheer size of some of the projects makes it difficult to budget accurately. “The engineering profession is being unfairly picked on,” he said.

Members have a responsibility to report professional practice violations they see on the job, Mr. Smyth noted. Yet those generating the headlines aren’t pointing the finger at any individuals. Instead, they’re “ playing politics” by tarnishing the profession, he said.

Member Services Guidelines Upheld

In September Council questioned the fairness of APEGGA’s selection of service providers, while debating what company should be the listed member service for a cellular phone communications plan. Now Council has accepted a policy statement, which underlines that staff selects providers based on guidelines Council approved several years ago.

The Member Services Department uses a list of 14 guidelines to make sure that providers are a proper APEGGA fit. A member service must “maintain integrity and professional standing in the community,” for example, and not detract from professional image. It must be available to all members, enhance the value of membership and not jeopardize APEGGA’s not-for-profit status.

Service providers want to be listed with APEGGA to reach the Association’s 40,000 members. However, APEGGA does not market on their behalf and does not provide them with the Association data base. The list of member services is available on-line and on request. Members receive a special reduced rate when they buy listed services.

Bell Mobility is the lastest addition to the list, offering a $29.70 monthly cell phone rate over two years or month-to-month. The plan includes 200 free minutes, free monthly voice mail, and long distance and other discounts.

Mentoring Handbook Approved

A new mentoring handbook is ready for publication, Council decided. Strategies for Success in Mentoring: A Handbook for Mentors and Protégés comes out of two years of work by the APEGGA Mentoring Committee.

The handbook replaces a guideline published in 2000. It’s a more practical, hands-on document than the last one, and it’s complemented by additional website material. Judith Lentin, P.Geol., a member of the APEGGA Mentoring Committee, wrote the 66-page handbook.

The committee reviewed many sources of mentoring best practices, and also drew upon eight permit-holding companies with their own mentoring programs.

The handbook will be part of a special, interactive mentoring area on the APEGGA website. Watch the site and upcoming editions of The PEGG for further information.

Permit to Practice Seminars Succeed

A blitz of APEGGA Permit to Practice Seminars began in September, after they became mandatory under regulations in the Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions Act. Each permit holding company must have a responsible APEGGA member on staff, and the seminars are designed to make sure these members know what the job entails and how to carry it out.

Council heard that up to Nov. 7,531 responsible members and chief operating officers had attended seminars. About 37 per cent of them filled out evaluation forms, usually with something positive to say.

In fact 95 per cent supported the need for seminars and 94 per cent said the tone of the seminar’s delivery was appropriate to the message, says a report from Ross Plecash, P.Eng., Director Corporate & Member Affairs. Forty-nine per cent said they believe the quality of their practices will improve because of what they learned at the seminar. None thought it would worsen.

Current policy is that the seminar should be attended within six months of a new permit being issued. However, 54 per cent of the respondents said that attendance should occur before the permit is issued. Seventy-two per cent said credit for attending should be carried from company to company, when a responsible member takes a new position.

67 Members Write FE Exams

Writing U.S. Fundamentals of Engineering exams on Canadian soil has proven popular with APEGGA members, Council heard. The first ever round of FE exams proctored by APEGGA had 55 members write in Edmonton and 12 in Calgary, said a report from Dr. Milt Petruk, P.Eng., APEGGA’s staff consultant, examinations.

Last summer, APEGGA and the National Council of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors signed an agreement on the exams. It allowed APEGGA staff to administer the FE exam on behalf of NCEES.

In the past Montana State Board representatives travelled to Edmonton to administer the exam. In the 12 months before October 2003, 52 APEGGA members wrote the exams that way.

The new arrangement doesn’t attach the exams to any particular state board. Still, it’s the same FE exam used by all the state boards in the U.S.

FE Exams are written every October and April. APEGGA will administer another round in April of this year.

A member who successfully completes the FE exam has taken the first step towards licensure in U.S. states. The NCEES agreement is part of APEGGA’s initiative to make the professions more mobile between the U.S. and Canada.

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