May 2001

Home | Past PEGGs | Ad Rates | Back to May Index | Contact


Where's Waldo?
Over There -- In Front of That APEGGA Member

BY Dale Miller, P.Eng.


If you're a parent, you will likely know who Waldo is. Waldo, as colourful as he may be, has a knack of blending in with his environment. The object of Waldo books is to find him.

Engineers, geologists and geophysics are like Waldo. We blend in and are not easily noticed. Unquestionably, the professions play a major role in society, providing useful products and services and in the creation of new wealth. Yet somehow we remain "invisible." The public identifies with other professions such as lawyers and doctors, but we appear to have no identity.

Perhaps part of the reason we are "invisible" is because we do such a good job. Rarely do you read about a bridge collapsing, a software system failing or an oil well blowing out. Public confidence in the reliability and safety of our products and services is high, and generally taken for granted. We are not front-page news.

Professions Keep Changing

If we look around, our professions are changing. We interact greater with other professions. We work in a global marketplace. Rapid advances in information technologies have changed our enrolment and will, no doubt change our membership composition in the future.
We have seen a dramatic increase in programs such as computer and software engineering. Some foresee an expansion of other fields such as bioengineering. In contrast, public understanding of the profession is minimal and possibly decreasing.

It could be argued that being "invisible" is not so bad, citing the public images of lawyers, as an example. Perhaps as an association, we would be better off if we remained hidden like Waldo.

Others argue that the association, and even the profession, cannot survive unless public understanding of the profession improves. They cite the declining percentage of student's graduates applying for registration within some associations. A continuation of this trend could reduce the engineering profession in Canada to a position like the United States where only about 20 per cent of the engineers are professionally licensed. The statistic for the geoscientists is unknown.

Finding Waldo

As I start my year as your president, I believe this Association must give its highest priority to the development of ways to improve public understanding of our professions. Improving public understanding will attract high quality students, particularly women, into our professions; it will improve the status, retention and promotion of our members in society, adding value to membership; it will increase the effectiveness of the profession as an adviser to the public, business and government; and ultimately it will also enhance the safety of the public.

This will be the focus of our upcoming strategy retreat. I hope I will be able to report on the results next month.

With your help, we will help the public find Waldo.



Home | Past PEGGs | Contact | Ad Rates | Back to May Index