May 2001

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Association Hosts Major Forum on Professional Mobility


By hosting a ground-breaking forum on mobility last month, APEGGA has cranked up its efforts to make the process simpler for member professionals applying to practice in other jurisdictions. The forum on North American mobility attracted about 65 people -- including representatives from a number of U.S. states from Texas to Alaska, from across Canada and even from Mexico.

The forum, Engineering is the Engine of Economic Growth, was held at Calgary's Telus Convention Centre, April 28, to cap off the 81st APEGGA Annual General Conference. The conference also featured Summit Awards presentations, the announcement of a new president and new councillors, and the APEGGA Annual General Meeting.

"This is not about borders. This is about common interests," said the forum's luncheon speaker, the Hon. Roger Simmons, P.C., Consul General of Canada. The Seattle resident urged forum participants to remember that Canada and the U.S. succeed when they co-operate, citing examples that included the development of two Canada Arms and Canadian leadership in telecommunications.

The forum centered on the engineering profession but has implications for the geoscience community as well, APEGGA Executive Director Neil Windsor, P.Eng., told the crowd. For more than two years, Alberta has been working bilaterally to forge relationships with nearby U.S. states, Mr. Windsor said.

"When you look back 15 or 20 years, we have made monumental progress in licensing. We have moved out of the Dark Ages and into enlightenment. Maybe with this whole mobility discussion, we will look back five or seven years from now and say the same thing: that we have made progress, that it continually got better from there."
-George Twiss, A.PLS.,
Executive Director, Washington State Board

Canadian professional engineering associations signed a mobility agreement in 1999, allowing engineers mobility between provinces. Geoscientists in Canada are on the cusp of signing a similar agreement.

Dick Cottingham, P.E., president of the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying in the U.S., said he applauds bilateral efforts and urged provincial associations to continue them. "These are baby steps in the right direction. But the real key is for the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers to work with the NCEES," the North Carolina resident said.

NCEES has adopted a "model law" for testing engineers. Most states are forming their mobility policies after the model law, Mr. Cottingham pointed out. And most will also follow the national lead when new mobility developments arrive.

Most states require in most situations that Canadian engineers provide references and write examinations. Some criteria are Catch 22s: Canadian applicants may require references from U.S. engineers they've worked under, for example. But that can't happen until their application succeeds.

The forum heard that there are significant differences, state-to-state, in the powers and procedures of the licensing boards, making it even tougher on Canadian applicants. Success in one state does not guarantee success in another.

Some boards are not allowed to lobby their state governments for any changes to the laws governing engineers. "In my state, we have to be very cautious. We can't even go to present a board position at the state legislature," said Richard Zbinden, president of the Oregon board. The Idaho board, on the other hand, is a registered lobbyist. And Nebraska has a full-time staff lobbyist on its payroll.

"Texas has a vested interest in NAFTA. We're right next to Mexico. Our president (during the negotiations) was from Texas. And when we signed in 1995, George W. Bush, today's president, was our governor.

-David Dorchester, P.Eng.
Executive Director, Texas State Board

State-to-province cooperation does exist in the engineering field. Michigan and Ontario are reaching an agreement. Maine and New Brunswick have had an unwritten agreement for years, the forum heard.

In the western provinces, APEGGA has put engineering mobility on the agenda of PNWER, the Pacific Northwest Economic Region. PNWER pushes for economic cooperation in Alberta, B.C., Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska, and has government as well as private sector representation.

Texas is the only U.S. state that has embraced NAFTA when it comes to mobility. The Lone Star State board is allowed to waive all or part of its examinations, on 12 years experience if the applicant graduated from an accredited university, or 16 years from a non-accredited university.

David Dorchester, P.E., chair of the Texas board, said it's important that a board have real power. "If you can't make a judgment call, you don't need a board, in my opinion," he said.




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