May, 2000

Professionalism’s Place
In a
Changing World

By Sue Evison, P.Eng.

In my first President’s Notebook, allow me to repeat some sentiments I expressed at APEGGA’s Annual General Meeting. As I did at the AGM, let me thank those who bestowed on me the honour of serving as APEGGA's 81st President and, those -- including my daughters, Tisha and Rhiannon -- who in so many ways have supported me as I prepared to take on this office.

I must admit, I do not come with a carefully mapped out agenda of what I will discuss in these columns in the next year. However, recognizing that I am trying to reach busy people, I’ll try to keep my columns fairly brief.

A Deal With Our Public

As professional engineers, geologists and geophysicists, we have struck a deal with our public. In return for access to our knowledge, the public -- through governments --- has granted us a mandate for social control in our fields of specialization and a high degree of autonomy in our practice.

There may have been a time when knowledge was power, when, once we had our degree and our professional designation, the public was prepared to defer to us. Those days are gone.

It is not the first time that knowledge once in the hands of a few became more widely dispersed. Notably, arrival of the printing press meant information once accessible to a limited group, often priests who could read, could reach the eyes and minds of many more.

Impact of Internet

Today, through the Internet, the public has direct access to information that professionals once may have considered "theirs". So, "doctor’s orders" may not carry the weight they once did as patients surf for a second opinion. Shopping, once done close to home or at most by catalogue, is being transformed by e-commerce that lets the average consumers explore a worldwide marketplace. Product and pricing knowledge guarded by retailers or the sales rep now are in the public domain.

I’m not sure such trends mean there is no longer a place for a silver-tongued salesman. Nor am I sure it means the end of professionalism -- though it may be redefined or transformed.

Shortly before APEGGA’s AGM, I attended the Alberta Association of Architects’ annual dinner where Lynn Webster, AAA’s new president noted: "We are all in a time of great change, which is redefining our working relationships with each other and the ways in which we practice the architectural profession." She added that the AAA Council -- and the same applies to APEGGA Council -- "must broaden its perspective to capture the new opportunities presented by the prosperity in Alberta."

Changing Boundaries

As the boundaries between technical areas and professions push against each other and cause pressure (and sometimes friction), we must decide whether to maintain these boundaries or dissolve them. We have to ask ourselves whether we have to be ready to accept expansion of the scope of our practice and/or encourage new alliances with other professions.

I urge you to engage in the debate as, over the next year. an APEGGA Council task force, headed by APEGGA Councillor Linda Van Gastel, P.Eng., examines APEGGA’s relevancy today and ten years down the line.




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