BY DON BUCHANAN
With five directors and 45 engineers on his departmental
team, Kurt Sawatzky, P.Eng., sees APEGGA's Continuing Professional
Development program and its outcomes in action. The manager
of the City of Edmonton's drainage services, asset management
and public works department is keenly aware that maintaining
and upgrading professional skill and technological know-how
are critical for each person's job performance. In fact, it
helps ensure that his department carries out top quality work.
trend to mandatory continuing professional development
is common to many professions. In most provinces
the engineering and geoscience regulatory organizations
are moving towards mandatory requirements. Since
1997, APEGGA's Continuing Professional Development
program has been of significant interest to
every APEGGA member.
are two excerpts from the APEGGA Continuing
Professional Development Guideline:
rate of technological change continues to increase,
directly affecting the practice of engineering,
geology and geophysics. In most practice areas,
individuals who do not continuously improve their
skills will soon be out of date. At the same time,
society's expectations of professionals have changed.
It is no longer enough to establish competence
at the beginning of a career. As reflected in
government policies on the governance of professions,
the public expects professionals to continue demonstrating
APEGGA's 1995 study on structural changes and
professional practice, lack of time or resources
for training and continuing education was the
second highest area of concern; 75 per cent of
members surveyed suggested that APEGGA should
play a role in developing and issuing guidelines
on training and continuing education."
"The best aspect of the CPD program is that it points
our engineering staff in the direction of remaining current,"
says Mr. Sawatzky. "It encourages them to get out from
behind their desks and be active doing things in the various
categories where personal development hours are credited to
them. One category allows you to earn points for community
involvement, which I think is a neat feature of the program
in my view being involved in the community improves
you as a person and a professional."
The CPD program requires each APEGGA professional engineer,
geologist and geophysicist to earn 80 personal development
hours per year or 240 over three years. Each person is credited
50 PDHs per annum for maintaining professional practice status,
so each year only 30 more PDHs, also known as CPD points,
Mr. Sawatzky's department has internally established requirements
for engineering staff to be involved in continuing education
and professional development. This synchs the department with
APEGGA requirements for its members to adhere to the CPD guideline.
"We make it the staff member's responsibility,"
says Mr. Sawatzky. "It's a job requirement to achieve
annual continuing education objectives. So, when staff meet
the APEGGA requirements they also meet our internal requirements.
In any case, it's up to each engineer to make the effort.
It's not the employer's job to chase them around to make sure
Mr. Sawatzky notes that each engineering professional must
have the annual CPD report up-to-date before the city pays
the employee's annual APEGGA membership fee.
Engineers at the City of Edmonton and other APEGGA professionals
with large employers may have better opportunities than those
who work for smaller, private-sector companies. "We've
interviewed engineers from the private sector, and in some
cases it's clear they haven't had as many professional development
opportunities or as much support provided by their employer,"
says Mr. Sawatzky. "But this doesn't mean the individual
can't meet the guideline standard. In fact there are a multitude
of opportunities out there."
APEGGA's CPD Guideline explains how members can earn points
by becoming involved in industry or professional associations,
attending workshops and conferences. They can present or write
papers, take part in community group work, teach, lecture
or participate in a range of other ways.
Keeping track is key. Mr. Sawatzky has access to an electronic
template for tracking his personal professional development
hours, but he prefers to use the hard copy forms.
"I keep it all in a separate folder for easier tracking.
It's worked so far, for me. When you are full-time in engineering
and as busy as many of us are, it's not a matter of having
enough points, it's a matter of choosing which hours you will
use for credit.
"Most years, I file about 120 PDHs for my various activities,
such as attending workshops and doing presentations to groups
outside the City administration."
Mr. Sawatzky says all engineering staff on his team feel
pretty good about meeting the CPD requirements. "At the
beginning, some might have wondered if they had to go to a
conference in Los Angeles or somewhere to get credit, but
it's clear that they can get credit by participating with
local groups or attending local workshops, meetings and conferences,
or doing something similarly valuable."
K.C. Er, P.Eng., works with Mr. Sawatzky as director of the
design and construction section within the drainage services,
asset management and public works department. Mr. Er, like
Mr. Sawatzky, is a good example of someone who has found the
CPD program standards easy to meet.
"I have no trouble meeting my professional development
requirements because I'm involved with giving papers at conferences,
doing volunteer and community work, mentoring and guest lecturing
at the U of A's Faculty of Civil Engineering, Construction
Engineering and Management. I also sit on the Technical Advisory
Board for the Natural Science and Research Council, Alberta
Construction Industry Research Chair in the faculty. In addition,
I have written papers from time to time, including a recent
paper on using computer simulation for tunnel construction."
In recent years, Mr. Er normally has earned more than 240
PDHs. "Last year I only submitted 168, but some years
I had more than 300. For younger engineers, they may have
limited formal training opportunities, but they can do things
such as presenting technical papers, attending technical luncheon
meetings, volunteering. They can coach a community team or
get involved in engineering associations or groups relating
to their work. So the guideline is not onerous for anyone."
APEGGA audits a small number of members per year. Audit criteria
are set out in the guideline.
Mr. Er was audited last year, and he says the experience was
relatively easy to get through. "I tracked all my professional
development hours on a spreadsheet, but then had to organize
them in categories. For example, I had credits for 10 publications,
participation at conferences and leadership development training,
but some of my hours on these were not categorized correctly.
"I found it somewhat tedious to go back, but it wasn't
too hard. My advice to people is keep track of it all in a
central file and create a spreadsheet with all details on
hours earned by category."
Mr. Er says the city has always been supportive in career
development for employees and the CPD program just "makes
it more formal."
Mandatory PDH requirements under the CPD guidelines are a
good thing even for those professionals who may be more "laid
back," he says. "It essentially forces them to maintain
their professional competency. In today's business world,
you really need to expand your skills and technical knowledge.
For example, if I had not been involved with the university
so much, I never would have adopted the computer simulation
tools I now use in my section at work.
"I have learned much about other topics too, such as
structured risk assessment and neural networks. These are
new topics to me and certainly were not around when I graduated
and entered the workforce."
Mr. Er's 12 engineering peers who work in his section are
all keeping up their professional skills and designations.
"Most of them are quite active in continuing their education
and heavily involved with a variety of technical associations,
such as the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers, the Tunnelling
Association of Canada and the North American Society of Trenchless