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
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.
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.