July 2001

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Advocacy, Compliance and Specialization Are Major Issues Facing APEGGA, Says Dale Miller, P.Eng.

APEGGA's latest president is 50-year-old Dale Miller, P.Eng., who first began volunteering for the Association at the branch level in Lethbridge in 1983. He worked his way up through the branch chair position and ran and was elected for two three-year terms on council, the second as a write-in candidate. Most recently Mr. Miller advanced from first vice-president under Sue Evison, P.Eng., (now the past president), into APEGGA's top elected position.

Mr. Miller brings both private and public sector experience to his one-year term as president. He is director of water management for UMA Engineering Ltd. in Lethbridge, and before that was principal of MPE Engineering Ltd., which he co-founded, district engineer for the Bow River Irrigation District, and a design engineer with Saskatchewan Agriculture.

A 1974 graduate in civil engineering from the University of Saskatchewan, Mr. Miller became APEGGA's 82nd president at the Annual General Conference and Annual General Meeting in Calgary in April. He and his wife Rose live in Lethbridge and have three grown children and two grandchildren. Their oldest child is Jason, 28, daughter Alanna is 26, and Trevor, 23, will graduate from computer engineering in 2002.

The PEGG recently asked Mr. Miller a few questions about his new duties and challenges.

What excites you the most about taking the helm of APEGGA?

First of all, everybody should be president before they're elected to Council. You really would be a lot more effective. As president, you see the issues from a different perspective. You have access to a lot more information, you get to talk to a lot more colleagues in the professions and so forth, so it really is a tremendous learning experience -- and a lot of work. I think it's even more work than I was led to believe beforehand, but it's also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

So I guess the answer is that what excites me is being given the opportunity to serve the professions at this level. It's as simple as that.

What are the main challenges and issues facing the organization?

I believe there is no single, big, controversial issue hanging over Council and the Association, which hasn't always been the case in the past. So I'm lucky in that regard.
Advocacy is one issue, in the sense of should we be taking a more proactive role in our approach to the issues, and if so how far should we go. I think that's definitely going to be an issue.

I think we're going to be challenged a lot more on certification and specialization. We're seeing it in B.C., with the push for seismic structural certification, and here with the concerns of the Alberta Securities Commission on petroleum reserve evaluations, that we look for ways to make the evaluations of a higher calibre than they were previously.

The biggest challenge of them all is how can we bring more of our people into the fold. We need to convince engineers, geologists and geophysicists that they should be licensed and in fact they are required to be licensed, without taking the big stick to them. I don't have a problem using the big stick, it's just that the carrot is often the better way to go.

At the end of the day, it's the law, and we have to strive for 100 per cent compliance. Otherwise, we're not performing out duty to protect the public. That suggests that we have to become more proactive in our enforcement.

We're well respected by the other associations as a national leader, we're well respected by industry and business, and we're well respected by government. This gives us the ability to look ahead and keep moving forward.

What are the main challenges and issues facing APEGGA's professionals, on an individual level?

Globalization, changes in technology and the growth of knowledge. How do we keep up? And how do we compete in different jurisdictions?

Mobility, which makes it easier for professionals to practice in other jurisdictions, is certainly important to our members, and APEGGA has made some real progress, continentally, in those areas -- with the signing of mobility agreements in Canada for engineers and geoscientists, and the progress of talks with our counterparts in the U.S.

How do we keep up with all the changes in our professions? Well, professional development is essential, and the association can certainly help members in that area, and in fact continued professional development is now required of our member professionals. An on-line learning system called PEGGasus is also being spearheaded by APEGGA.
Learning for life is what's important. Knowledge grows too fast to rely on what you knew when you graduated from university.

What do you bring to this job that is unique or of particular interest?

Number one, I come from outside Calgary or Edmonton. I think that's important because it gives me a real understanding of what's important at the branch level and in the smaller communities. I also think it makes me very accessible; I'm used to being recognized on the street.

Number two, I don't work in oil and gas. It's not that there's anything wrong with working in oil and gas, it's just that so much of our work as an association is related to it. I have an outsider's advantage. I don't have any particular bias or insider's understanding of the issues, so I can offer a different and objective perspective.

Your career is an interesting mix of private and public engineering. What does that background bring to the table?

Actually, I have three perspectives. I've been a government employee, then a private sector engineer, and now a consulting engineer.

I guess this gives me a bit of an understanding of how the different areas work. I know a little bit about developing plans and strategies to deal with bureaucracy. There's certainly some value in that. And I also know what it's like to be in business as a principal, as well as to work for a larger company.

How did you become interested and involved in APEGGA?

I'd always been involved in my community, as a Kinsmen, a Boy Scout leader, a hockey coach. But until I moved to Lethbridge I hadn't had any real opportunity to become involved in APEGGA. I got involved in the local branch's school program in 1983. From that day on, I've been involved.

I moved through the executive to branch chair, and then started sitting in as an observer of Council meetings. What I saw was that Council seemed to me to be a bit of an old boys' club. They tended to micro-manage things, like argue about the colour of the border on a certificate they were handing out, and not see some of the big things coming at them, like the Alberta Society of Engineering Technologists issue of registering technologists.

So I thought, well, I couldn't do any harm. President Barry Lester, P.Eng., now a life member, got me on the nominatino list, and the rest is history. I served three years, and ran again as a write-in nomination.

And definitely Council has improved, not just because of me, of course. Council is not micro-managing anymore. It is looking at the broader issues. And it seems to have a wider representation of professional members, so councillors come at issues with a broader base of knowledge and more perspectives than in the past. They're acting a lot less like engineers on Council and a lot more like managers and leaders.

The public members have helped a lot, too. They bring a whole different perspective on how we should do things.

Council still might have a bit of the old boys' club feel, but more than ever before it is not really an old boys' club.

I'd encourage anyone to get involved. If you have a problem with something the association is doing or you don't see the value of your membership, volunteer. You will soon see the tremendous effort that goes into making this association work, and you will be able to speak and be heard, and make a difference in the association and the professions.
It's a great sacrifice that council and the executive make, at the expense of their time and their families, but to me it's very rewarding to serve the professions, and you get way more out of it than you put in, both personally and professionally.

Do you have any APEGGA mentors you'd like to mention?

I don't really want to single anyone out. But I will say that some of the presidents I served under were exceptional. We had some very dedicated and tremendous leaders. I'm just happy that I have been given the chance to work with them and now to follow in their footsteps.



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