Questioning Inclusivity

Branch visits reveal that members have plenty of good questions about APEGGA’s inclusivity initiative. And your Council has some good answers, too, which explain how the public will be better served by lengthening the licensure bar.


APEGGA President


Presidential walk-about happens each year starting in February, and this year is no different. In recent weeks I have enjoyed the hospitality of APEGGA branches in Red Deer, Cold Lake, Lloydminster, Fort McMurray, Peace River, Hinton, Grande Prairie, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. Edmonton and Calgary are the last two stops on the tour in March.

So what is happening out in the branches? Without exception, right across Alberta, things are very good indeed. A robust economy, a positive attitude, opportunities for growth, young people getting married, buying houses and starting families – these are all very good things to see.

After a brief update on our discussions with ASET over the past year, the main subject of discussion in each branch has been inclusivity. You may have read or heard something about this initiative by now; it has generated quite a lot of interest, and not just within our own membership.

Last month I reported in this column that we will bring forward to the Annual General Meeting in Edmonton proposed changes to the Act, Regulations and Bylaws to allow the creation of a new category of membership within APEGGA. Registered Geologists, Registered Geophysicists and Registered Engineers will be licensed with a defined scope of practice.

They will be required to have a four-year university degree and four years of professional experience acceptable to our Board of Examiners. They will have to pass the Professional Practice Exam, just like every other APEGGA member, and will be subject to our Code of Ethics, discipline process, and Continuing Professional Development program. They will be able to vote and serve on our Council.

In short, they will be professional members of APEGGA, with the restriction of practicing within an individually defined scope.

Questions and Answers

After summarizing the highlights of what inclusivity is and what it means, and how we reached the unanimous consensus among our Council and senior staff last spring that this is the right thing to do, several questions always pop up. Some of these questions follow.

“Are we lowering our standards?” is usually the first question. The answer is no. In fact, just the opposite. We are not lowering the bar, we are lengthening the bar to include many people who up till now do not fit the standard mould, but really should be licensed. We concluded that it is better to have people who are practicing our professions licensed and subject to our high standards than to have them practicing with no licence at all.

“How will the public distinguish between a P.Eng. and an R.Eng. with a defined scope?” They will not have to. Once you are licensed, either in the Professional category or the Registered category, you are responsible and qualified to practice.

The public will not necessarily know the difference. What the public will be assured of, however, is that Registered members – R.Eng. R.Geol. and R.Geoph. – will have a different stamp that spells out an appropriate defined scope of practice.

“Who will qualify for R.Eng., R.Geol., R.Geoph.?” People practicing our professions with a non-conventional background.

We expect three main types of people will qualify. Immigrants to Alberta who graduated from a university that is not on the list of universities deemed to be equivalent to a Canadian university. Those in emerging disciplines such as biomedical engineering, where there are no accredited engineering programs, or the programs are just now being started. And finally, people who have a science degree or something similar and apply that knowledge in a profession that looks much like engineering.

“How many people will qualify?” This is hard to say, but in the Registered Professional Technologist (R.P.T.) category, which we have had for five years now, we have just over 100 people registered. Realistic projections for this new category are in the same range, perhaps a hundred or so after five years.

“Will these engineering and geoscience practitioners be second-class citizens in APEGGA?” No. They will be professional members of APEGGA. They will vote, be able to serve on Council, be subject to our discipline process, and be required to meet our CPD requirements, just like every other responsible member of APEGGA.

“What do the other provinces think about this?” We have kept the other provinces informed and sought their input from the beginning. Last September at a meeting of the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers in Ottawa we presented the framework for this new category and received positive feedback from our sister associations across the country.

“What does our minister, the Hon. Clint Dunford, Minister of Human Resources and Employment, think of this?” Our minister believes we are on the right track and has been very encouraging.

“Will public safety and well-being be impacted in Alberta?” Yes. It will be improved. Over a year ago we asked a simple question of ourselves. We asked, “Do we need to be more inclusive to continue to protect the public safety and well-being here in Alberta?”

The overwhelming and resounding answer to that question was “YES!” What has resulted is a way to improve public safety and well-being by licensing people who should be licensed.

A Compelling Case for Change
Change is always difficult, especially for a group of generally conservative-minded people such as us. Personally, I lean toward keeping things the same in virtually all aspects of my life as much as I can. Consistency is comforting. However, when there is a compelling reason for change we must take action.

The discussion on inclusivity started just over a year ago. APEGGA Council created the Licensure Task Force to review this question and to prepare a discussion paper for the strategy session in Kananaskis last spring. The unanimous conclusion among our Council and senior staff that day was that there is a compelling motive to do this: improved public safety.

The lnclusivity Task Force deliberated long and hard on the details. We included input from key stakeholders, such as people who have immigrated to Canada, and people who practice our professions but do not have a degree in engineering or geoscience. We included several members of our Board of Examiners to ensure that the resulting framework would be workable at a practical level.

The feedback from the branches we have recently visited has been very positive and encouraging. They have asked all the right questions, demonstrating that the level of interest is very high.

The comments I hear back are all very positive: “It’s the right thing to do”; “This is very progressive”; “ It’s about time”; “ This sounds very fair.”

The discussion to this point within the organization has been honest, detailed and with a very high level of understanding of what is intended and why. We have had clear, open and full dialogue over the past year with many people who will be impacted, directly or indirectly.

And the dialogue continues. In addition to the visits to each and every branch in Alberta, town-hall-style meetings are planned to discuss this and other topics in Calgary and Edmonton. Dates and locations appear in the notice on this page.

Plan to attend if you wish to learn more or have any questions that have not been answered. Or, you can always drop me a note with your questions, comments or concerns. Together, we can make a difference.

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